A natural-born rancher and his business-oriented brother have to keep working and living together when the latter gets married to a woman that changes their status quo.
A superb psychological drama that delves into unknown personal motives by weaving a stealthy and obscure subplot. Of course, it was the raving reviews, nominations and awards that intrigued me to watch it, but it was Ari Wegner’s photography that hooked me, and the first dining scene that got my undivided attention. I hadn’t read much about it, or Thomas Savage’s novel so, its story and character development were quite the surprise.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s accent (Phil), Jesse Plemmons’ idiosyncratic performance (George), and Kirsten Dunst’s first leading role (Rose) since (the head-scratcing) Woodshock (2017) makes the mixture quite revelatory. The chemistry between them is explosive and Cumberbatch and Dunst go the extra mile while delivering their performances. Then, the polar opposite way their characters see but also deal with life, at first and then later, is all about every hero’s journey. The fact that it leads to a place we didn’t expect is part of that journey. I guess, if we did expect it, it wouldn’t be a ride worth following. With Rose’s suffering being the epicentre of the story, George’s apathy towards Phil’s passive aggression becomes the narrative’s driving force. By even slightly changing those actions and reactions, you get a completely different film.
While we are it, the narrative’s division to chapters puts it chronologically into perspective. As much as non-linear narratives are more appealing to me, in this case, it makes absolute sense to be constructed the way it is. The mesmerising producer/writer/director Jane Campion, the woman behind films such as, The Piano (1993) and Bright Star (2009) does a spectacular comeback with a well-carved drama that invests in love, hatred, despair, and alienation in a time where the gender roles where defined by archetypes.
Peter Sciberras’ editing controls the film’s overall rhythm by pacing the shots, especially, during dialogue sequences, balancing this way the utterances with their respective reactions, and enhancing the drama and the mystery behind the questions raised. The answers don’t come easy, but when they do they justify the aforementioned rhythm.
Assuming that it can be compared to The Legends of the Fall (1994): https://kaygazpro.com/2020/12/29/legends-of-the-fall-1994-drama-romance-war/ I would argue that the Legends is significantly more dramatic with a variety of breathtaking performances, something that here is only achieved by Dunst. But, then, the ending gives away a different kind of film so, whether the comparison can be made or not is purely subjective.
P.S. Plemmons and Dunst are a couple in real life and have two sons together.
P.S. Cumberbatch and Dunst went into method acting and didn’t speak to each other while filming.
P.P.S. Even though it takes place in Montana, it was actually shot in Campion’s homeland, New Zealand.