For his third film as director, J.D. Dillard adapts the 2017 biography Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by author Adam Makos. The film shortens the title to Devotion and introduces audiences to the comradeship between naval officers Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) during the Korean War.
Montana Story is textbook Sundance fare
Coming to grips with the past is the centerpiece of Bleecker Street’s family drama Montana Story. Writing and directing duo Scott McGehee and David Siegel collaborate again for the film, which I must warn viewers is a slow-moving drama.
The film tells the story of two estranged siblings Erin (Haley Lu Richardson) and Cal (Owen Teague), returning home to the sprawling ranch they once knew and loved, confronting a deep and bitter family legacy against a mythic American backdrop.
Montana Story introduces Cal first in a standard setup that screams favorite son. The family patriarch is bedridden in the living room and under the care of hospice nurse Ace (Gilbert Owuor) and a family friend Valentia (Kimberly Guerrero). Cal wants his father to pass away peacefully, take care of his dad’s creditors and move on with his life. Cal decides the best bet is to sell Mr. T, a twenty-five-year-old black stallion with arthritis, on advice from the bank.
Things twist when Erin shows back up after a septet stint living in upstate New York. For reasons easy to guess, Erin left Montana a while back after a harrowing incident with her father. Since Cal stood by helplessly, Erin washed her hands of any relationship with him. When Erin learns of Cal’s plans to sell Mr. T, she insists the horse come back to New York with her. Thus begins a road trip between the two and hopefully some much-needed healing.
As I alluded to earlier in my review, Montana Story is a slow-moving drama. The film is very dialogue-driven, with very few happy moments in the movie. The writers and directors avoid typical tropes of having Owen and Erin reconnected through road trip karaoke or giving each other dating advice. In addition, while the set up is there, the script never turns Ace (Gilbert Owuor) into a magical black man who can cure the characters’ problems.
In the lead roles of Erin & Cal, both Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague commit to their performances. Both actors give a performance that will lead to bigger and better things as the acting comes across natural. However, this is not the type of movie that screams mainstream despite the strong acting. Yes, the cinematography is gorgeous, and there are some great shots of The Treasure State. Still, like Nomadland, Montana Story is a movie with a niche audience who will love it. In contrast, others will question why the film was ever greenlit.
Final Grade: C
Montana Story is in theaters now
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