Greetings again from the darkness. In her 35 year career, Robin Wright has created many memorable big screen roles, including: Princess Buttercup in THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987), Jenny in FORREST GUMP (1994), and Antiope in the WONDER WOMAN franchise. She entertained many of us as the complex Claire Underwood in “House of Cards”, a series for which she also directed 10 episodes. However, this is Ms. Wright’s feature directorial debut, and she also stars in this introspective story from co-writers Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam.
City slicker Edee (Ms. Wright) decides to go “off the grid”. Through flashbacks we are able to intuit that she is grieving deeply, and both her therapist and sister (Kim Dickens) are concerned about her suicidal tendencies. Edee loads up a U-Haul trailer and in the ultimate sign of ‘dropping out of society’, she ceremoniously dumps her cell phone in a trash can. The road takes her to the Rocky Mountains region of Wyoming, where she plops down the money for a remote … extremely remote … rundown cabin with a breathtaking view. At this point, we question both her sanity and reasoning.
Through Edee’s visions we catch glimpses of a man and young child, whom we can assume are her husband and son. An unknown devastating family tragedy, and realization that therapy is not the answer, have driven her to the point of needing to be alone with her pain – to get away from people. Of course, the harsh reality is that she doesn’t know how to live off the land, and no “how to” book is going to teach her to chop wood, or hunt, trap and fish, much less survive the forces of nature. A visit from a bear ensures a shortage of supplies, and the brutal wintry cold combines to leave Edee wondering whether she will freeze to death before she starves to death.
Did she expect to die on this mountain or did she honestly think this life could rehabilitate her spirit to live? Would changing the view from skyscrapers to a majestic mountain range be enough to help her escape the darkness? Well, we never really get the answers, thanks to the just-in-time arrival of a hunter named Miquel (Oscar nominated Demian Bichir, A BETTER LIFE, 2011), who, along with local nurse Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge) help Edee regain her health after near death.
Miguel and Edee forge a bond as he teaches her the realities of living off the land. They exchange very little dialogue, but it’s clear Miguel is dealing with his own form of suffering. He’s a very practical and patient man, and when teaching her how to trap, he states, “Eating squirrels is motivation to get a deer.” Can one person help another person re-discover the will to live? That’s really the message of the film. We may prefer to be alone with our grief, but it’s connecting with others that gives life meaning. As with Miguel and Edee, that connection may simply be someone “in my path”.
As you might imagine, the film looks beautiful as it bounces between the immediacy of Edee in a cabin, and the vastness of the mountain vistas. Long-time cinematographer Bobby Bukowski (ARLINGTON ROAD, 1999) makes sure we experience the overwhelming beauty of nature (Alberta as a stand in for Wyoming), as well as its overwhelming danger. With minimal dialogue, much of the story is told through the nuanced physical acting from two pros, Ms. Wright and Mr. Bichir. Humor is injected through the use of Tears for Fears song, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, and though it’s kind of a running gag, the song’s lyrics are spot on. There is no magic cure for disabling grief, but the dream of self-discovery by getting “one with nature” can be idealistic without proper guidance. As the film relays, the best path is more likely to be a fellow human being simply doing the right thing.
Opens in theatres on February 12, 2021