River of Grass

River of Grass

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I've read others say this is like Kelly Reichardt's Badlands but I don't really see that. Rather than a couple-on-the-run story it's about the longing for and futility of escape.

There are various ways characters in River of Grass try to escape from loneliness, boredom or generally from life. We hear about Cozy's mother who left when she was 10 while they were on holiday. Her father told her she'd run away to join the circus and Cozy likes to imagine her flying on a trapeze, a vision of freedom. Cozy's father himself retreats into jazz drumming and booze, Lee's father took a long walk into the sea. Most interesting is the previous owner of Cozy's house who killed her husband with a hatchet. Cozy wonders why and surmises that it probably wasn't one big thing but many little things. It's the everyday of relationships that make them unbearable.

Cozy wants to escape from her life but lacks the imagination to know how. When given the opportunity via Lee of going "on the run", because he claims they've killed someone, she takes it. But without enthusiasm or investment in Lee or the story. She's playing at being a criminal on the run and she knows it, but lacking any real sense of self, of knowing what she really wants, she goes along with the pathetic and inevitably unsuccessful trip.

Cozy is unable be authentic. She has a pre-prepared list of sins she takes to confession every fortnight rather than talking about her own. She married a man she doesn't love because... he's there? She can't think of another option for herself? At the end we finally see her make a decision for herself; to kill Lee, not out of rage but from disappointment. She throws the gun out of the car and it lands in the same place that Lee's friend found it. The cycle perpetuates and doubtless Cozy's daughter will hear about how her mother left, and when she grows up dissatisfied with life she'll wonder why, and will long to escape just like her.

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