Director: Zachary Sluser
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Duration: 92 minutes
The Driftless Area (DVD) – Movie Review
If you have ever considered entertaining the thought of reincarnation, ghosts and what happens with your spirit when one is brutally murdered, The Driftless Area is a film well worth to watch. The Driftless Area is a neo-noir drama-comedy based on the novel of the same title by Tom Drury. In this film a love story is developed in combination with the concept of reincarnation and spirits not yet wandering the astral planes.
The way you experience the narrative of the film is purely dependant on how you view life and in which ideals you believe in. That being said, the storyline that all can experience in roughly the same way is as follows. Pierre (Anton Yelchin) has always been socially inept to some degree but in his close circle of two friends Carrie (Alia Shawkat) and Keith (Benjamin Rogers), he was the only one that has ever left the small town to follow his dreams of college. In his third year, disaster had struck and Pierre’s parents died causing Pierre to move back to town to find work as a bartender. At some point in his life he meets the beautiful Stella (Zooey Deschanel) and slowly falls in love with her mysterious being.
Stella is not who we think she is as she was accidentally murdered by Shane (John Hawkes), unbeknownst to him, whom got paid to burn down an empty house. Her ghost, her spirit, is still roaming the earthly planes in search for redemption. As she roams around, she meets Tim Geer (Frank Langella) who knows about her condition of being not quite human and together they forge a plan to make her murderer pay, giving her the opportunity to move on. Timing seems everything and what they did not plan is for Pierre to cross paths with Shane, who tries to rob Pierre of his rose bush. This leads into a minor action-less hustle but it does leave Shane knocked-out, giving Pierre the opportunity to grab his stuff but before taking off again, he finds a sack full of money. Stella tells Pierre of her “condition” as was the plan but she has fallen in love with his clumsiness and fears that he will go after Shane. She is not wrong and Shane and Pierre cross paths again but with a fatal ending and thus Stella has found redemption for her brutal murder.
The entire plot is peculiar and bizarre and it raises a plethora of questions, especially since the film jumps back and forward in time which leads up to quite some confusion on the viewer’s end. The dry sense of humor gives just a tint of comedy to a drama filled narrative that is about fate, love, reincarnation, coming-of-age, life in a small town and being socially inacceptable. It’s a whole lot to deal with but it doesn’t quite come across as an emotional rollercoaster but it did felt very philosophical and quite honestly, poem-like.
As far as the performances of the actors go, we felt like they had underperformed but at the same time, their performances were simply perfect for this neo-noir film that’s not set in the present time but some odd years ago. We’re not used to seeing Zooey Deschanel, who portrayed Stella, perform like this but we were pleasantly surprised and we’re quite sure you will be too. She nailed the carefree attitude of Stella’s personality while still wanting justice. Anton Yelchin is a great choice to portray the odd but kind Pierre. John Hawkes is another brilliant choice as he portrayed the guilt-laden small-time criminal Shane. The storyline doesn’t judge Shane for his actions and while he sometimes seems like a huge idiot who simply hangs around the wrong crowd, we did see the emotional commotion within his mind develop as Stella haunts him until the very last end. Bringing such a specific mix of emotion to the screen is not a simple task but John took it to the next level.
The entire narrative is slightly confusing, although plenty of details are provided – especially in the first half of the film – but the explanation and opinions of the actors on the film and its storyline in the making of bonus feature makes it less bizarre. This makes the bonus content almost perfect because you can relate to what they say and continue to form your own opinion on the matter.
The Driftless Area is a film that leaves you dumb-founded at first. It will not give you an immediate sense of greatness but once you start to think about the possible meanings of the film, it will become better and better. It’s very philosophical so if that is right up your alley, you will love it. Those in favor of some over-the-top action sequences will be let down. Despite its peculiar narrative, it’s a film well worth the watch.