Two estranged siblings return home to the sprawling ranch they once knew and loved, confronting a deep and bitter family legacy against a mythic American backdrop.

Chuck says:

The physical wounds have healed, though some scars remain.  However, it’s the emotional and psychological damage that have yet to be addressed in Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s “Montana Story,” a quiet, intimate tale of strained reconciliation set in Big Sky Country. The story itself is, regrettably, a bit too familiar to contain any real surprises.  However, the committed work by its two young leads and the imaginative use of the spectacular setting keeps the viewer hooked, despite its slow-burn pacing.

Having suffered a massive stroke, corrupt lawyer, failed rancher and abusive patriarch Wade (Rob Story) is on his death bed. Despite the presence of a live-in nurse (Gilbert Owuor) and devoted housekeeper (Kimberly Guerrero), his son Cal (Owen Teague) has been left to deal with the sale of his Montana property and the settling of his father’s debts. This is quite a task for a man in his early-20’s and while putting these matters to rest are weighing heavily on him, the impending death of his father does not.

His plate is full and about the get fuller with the out of the blue arrival of his estranged sister Erin (Haley Lu Richardson). Embracing a righteous sense of fury, she’s here to gain some sense of closure with her father, as their relationship turned violent and nearly fatal during her high school years.  That he is comatose makes this rather difficult. As if all of this isn’t burden enough, Erin takes it upon herself to save the ranch’s only remaining horse – 25-year-old Mr. T – from being euthanized, an arrangement Cal has made after much consideration.

The saving of the elderly horse becomes the surface concern in the film’s second half, but that’s not truly its focus.  It takes some time – a little too long actually- for all to be revealed regarding the ruction that exists between the siblings, key pieces of information coming out in drips and drabs.  And a revelatory moment in which Erin and Cal visit the site of a mining excavation with noticeable rings she equates to the Circles of Hell from “Dante’s Inferno” – the level devoted to “betrayers of relationships” getting special emphasis – seems a bit too convenient.

However, the fine work between Richardson and Teague keeps us hooked, each of them effectively conveying much more with their silence than words. (I’d be willing to bet there are more meaningful, pregnant pauses here than lines of dialogue) This shifts radically during the film’s effective climax in which past grievances, as well as onerous regret are expressed. To be sure, this is the sort of emotionally wrenching scene actors crave, as this gives them the opportunity to really ACT! Be that as it may, Richardson and Teague earn this moment; their sincerity is consistent from the quiet moments to the loud, the outpouring of long pent-up emotions on both their characters’ parts, genuinely conveyed. The anger and guilt Erin and Cal finally give vent to doesn’t seem as calculated as some earlier scenes.

Of course, the location cannot be ignored and it’s captured in all its glory by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens. The massive sky, the vast horizons and looming mountains threaten to dwarf Erin and Cal’s concerns, serving as a metaphor for the oppressive pain they’ve carried that ultimately cannot be ignored.  Regrettably, “Montana’s” story proves all too familiar but the sincerity conveyed by Richardson and Teague and the gorgeous canvas it plays out on, rewards the patient.

Pam says:

To read Pam’s review, go to…


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