Hold the Dark ★★★

Hold the Dark begins as a story about a distraught mother seeking closure through a writer she hires to hunt and kill the wolf who took her son. Quickly the story darts down several different avenues and ends up being something much more complex, morose, and violent than what it began as.

That's both good and bad, for my tastes. The good is that I was really taken with the beauty of the film and it's bleek, cold atmosphere. I was invested in the story as it led me into various surprising moments and some of what's becoming Saulnier's signature spurts of incredible violence. There are sequences in this movie that are very well-executed, including an intense shootout and several shocking attacks.

The bad, unfortunately, is that the movie is a little too open to interpretation for me. Maybe I'll feel differently when I eventually rewatch it, but the motivations of some characters are intentionally left ambiguous and instead of hooking my interest, it just left me feeling like I missed something. The movie is based on a novel that goes much more in depth into some aspects of the plot and characters, from what I understand. The problem is that Saulnier actively avoids certain explanations so that we can form our own connections and interpretations. This isn't a bad thing by any means, but from a storytelling point of view, the movie left too much open-ended.

Again, maybe I'll feel differently when I rewatch the movie. But for now, I am left a little letdown. But despite my somewhat mixed feelings on the film, I really love watching Jeremy Saulnier evolve as a filmmaker. Although Hold the Dark isn't my favorite of his work, it is still a wonderful showcase of his growth as a filmmaker.

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