20 February 2014 | naq-1
Gorgeous to look at, difficult to comprehend
A talented newcomer on the scene has utilized the language of film to demonstrate a sophisticated and engrossing portrait of a family falling into dysfunction, yet struggling to hold themselves together. Unable to deal with the passing of her mother, a young woman named Emma, hears a voice on the phone telling her to wait, "they will return." Of course, this is something that she interprets as a sign that her mother will return from the dead. Why not? It seems perfectly reasonable.
Oddly enough, her sister Angela, incredulous at first, reluctantly goes along with the fantasy. That starts the mystery -- why would two such upper class twits allow themselves to believe in this modern fairy tale? Once you buy the concept, and are willing to suspend your disbelief, you become lulled in by the sumptuous images, the endless wandering through the woods, and odd behavior by otherwise normal people.
The cinematography is outstanding for a low-budget project such as this, with stunning shots of a wildfire (apparently it was shot sometime during a massive fire in Oregon), and the shots of the planes flying over, dropping long clouds of pinkish fire retardant are strangely beautiful.
Chloe Sevigny as Emma performs exactly as expected, she sells the idea wholeheartedly. Jena Malone, as the sister supposedly with her head together, is less believable, but does manage to convey the baffling contrast between someone who doesn't for a moment believe in the idea of resurrection, yet is willing to give in for the sake of keeping her sister happy. She develops an outside interest in a man-boy named Ben, who has a poet's soul, but who cannot seem to penetrate whatever barriers she has constructed (we never find out exactly why).
There are a couple of minor subplots, one of which involves a younger brother and one of the other neighbor boys, but it is given short shrift and then tossed on the back burner, which is a shame, since it would have added some much needed interest outside of the two main characters.
There is also some professional work done by a young girl named Lana Green, who has a small but dynamic role as Emma's daughter, and should be a leading actress in another 10 years.
Overall, a few plot lines get lost, and some of the lines make no sense whatsoever, but the beautiful shots more than make up for the shortcomings.