River of Grass

River of Grass ★★★★

Reichardt would go on to explore similar themes of lost souls, poverty and the coalescing of humans and landscapes in her later work perhaps a little more astutely, but I really like the grungy, dirty aesthetic here. As others have said, it’s like a failed Badlands. Not ‘failed’ because the film is bad, but because the characters are a little dim and can’t even pull off a run from the law correctly. In fact they don’t even kill anyone. In a lot of ways the two protagonists want to live out their life of crime movie fantasy to escape lives they’re not happy with anyway. Despair permeates throughout, but there’s not a sadness over a particular thing. These characters don’t really know any other lives, and they’ve never expected anything more. But there’s a palpable air of knowing there’s something more out there, but with no idea how to get it. It’s not a totally serious film, and like most of Reichardt’s work not much actually happens in terms of plot, but she has this knack of capturing people perfectly even when they’re monosyllabic and enigmatic. Her work is, in a way, quite expressionistic with the way characters and the surrounding topography play off each other. Much like the man vs nature debate that frames Old Joy, here the juxtapositions between dilapidated houses and incongruous palm trees mould together to form a world that promises one thing, but in truth delivers something much sadder. Cozy and Lee are much like the palm trees that reside not by the beach but weird outliers next to main roads - a symbol of idealistic dreams stuck in completely the wrong place.

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