|Take Me to the River (USA; 84
directed by: Matt Sobel
starring: Logan Miller; Robin Weigert; Josh Hamilton; Ursula Parker; Azura Skye; Richard Schiff
"Saying director Matt Sobel is fond of the McGuffin would be a gross
understatement. TAKE ME TO THE RIVER is a film that in no way is what
it seems. First off, while Don (Richard Schiff) and Cindy (Robin
Weigert) are en route from California to Nebraska for a family reunion,
Cindy tells their son Ryder (Logan Miller) that; perhaps it would be
best not to mention you’re gay in front of the relatives. I want the
visit ‘to be about me, not about you.’ Ryder is incensed. He is part
of a new generation becoming comfortable with his sexuality at an early
age, yet forced to cope with prior generations that lack fluidity in
such matters. Ryder agrees to his mother’s request and then promptly
dons a pair of bright red short shorts for the reunion dinner.
“Cindy is the type of woman who manipulates by means of presenting herself as defenseless and naïve, or at minimum, unaware of anything outside the moment at hand. Don, her husband, disappears into the background for reasons unexplained but are rather obvious by the film’s end. At the big dinner the young male cousins make fun of Ryder but his younger, female cousins seem to like him. Molly, a girl of nine, wants to show him the barn and hayloft. ‘I don’t want you climbing those hay bales,’ warns Ryder’s Uncle Keith. What happens next is reminiscent of A PASSAGE TO INDIA. We see Molly climbing the bales and wanting to reach a bird’s nest by climbing on Ryder’s shoulders. Suddenly Molly is running across the barnyard screaming, blood running down her leg. Visions of ATONEMENT flash through my head. Keith is frantic. The party is over.
“At this point the tone of the film darkens. Ryder is banished by his mother to an abandoned farmhouse for the night. ‘I know these people and they are not accepting,’ she tells Ryder. ‘You’re going to be the bigger person to fix this,’ she adds.
“The next morning things get more ugly and more onerous. Later Molly’s sister comes riding on horseback with a spare horse in tow. Ryder is invited to Keith’s house for dinner. Just Ryder, no one else. So off he goes. Dinner is peculiarly tense. ‘So are you a heartbreaker of just teasin’ like your mother used to do?’ Keith asks. He also eggs Ryder on to declare which of his four daughters is prettiest. On top of that Keith takes Ryder away from the dinner table and brandishes a gun.
“Logan Miller is terrific as the McGuffin. But the fun stuff lands in the laps of Robin Weigert and Josh Hamilton both of who fit their roles to perfection. The story itself is most thought provoking. So often we focus on one aspect of human behavior when the true motivation triggering the course of events lies elsewhere. The camera frequently lingers on the environment adding to the atmosphere while giving us a feeling of time and place. A great first feature film. 4.5 cats
“(TAKE ME TO THE RIVER screened at the 2015 London Film Festival.)”