River of Grass

River of Grass ★★★★

Really nicely done, low key drama that tackles adulthood ennui in a different manner. On the surface it may seem like a Badlands riff but it’s really about people dissatisfied with life hoping to find something that sparks...anything. 

One night a married woman goes out to a bar to get away from the life she has found herself in. She hooks up with Larry Fessenden and in a short night of just finding that spark of life again they falsely believe that they accidentally murdered someone so they go on the lamb. 

Except they don’t go in the lamb. Life is hard in southern Florida. These people are broke and life has made it so that they are barely surviving. How can they escape their crime is they can’t even pay the 25c toll to escape Dade County?

The film has a lot on its mind and it talks about them calmly, almost inconsequentially. Only in the final moments when Fessenden reveals his lie and they have to face returning to their hellish lives does things take an unexpected turn. Heck, that’s the last five minutes! It’s a good kick in the pants and dive into character that it really upends our expectations and hopes for the story. 

The film is very low budget and fills its space with talking and uncomfortable closeups. This gives the film a raw edge of realism and the characters are interesting enough to keep you fully engaged over the very very brief 70-odd minutes the film runs. 

My first Reichardt and one I’ve been wanting to see anyway because of Fessenden’s involvement. It’s a great debut from a unique voice. This is really unlike most films I’ve seen even if you can grasp at faint images of other work, the whole is totally its own.

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