Movie Review - Take Me to the River (2016)

Writer-director Matt Sobel wanted to convey some idea about life in the Midwest as opposed to life on the West Coast. Sobel wanted to convey the pervasiveness of secrets or the lack of communication about things that happen, how things are handled passive aggressively, building resentment or distance that can bubble up and strain relationships. However, Sobel does the minimal to tell the story that is the vehicle for what Sobel wants to convey. He's so minimal that you have no clue what's actually happening or what has happened. Sobel has no interest in telling us, which is okay if characters don't talk about what happened, but Sobel as the filmmaker has the ability to show us without violating his characters' inability to talk openly about sensitive things. Yet, Sobel refuses to show us and it leaves his film as a bit of a mystery.

Logan Miller stars as Ryder, a teenage boy who lives in California with his parents. His mom is Cindy, played by Robin Weigert. His dad is Don, played by Richard Schiff. It's never revealed what they do for a living, but the movie opens with Don driving Cindy and Ryder to Nebraska, ostensibly to a family reunion, held at Cindy's mom's house. Ryder is openly gay and he asks his mom if she's told the family about his sexual orientation. She says no, and it becomes an issue of if he's going to say he's gay to the family.

When they arrive, they have dinner outside in the backyard of Cindy's mom's house. Cindy's brother Keith, played by Josh Hamilton, is there. Keith has his wife and children. He has four daughters. His eldest daughter is Molly, played by Ursula Parker. She's only 8 or 9. We mainly follow Ryder as he meets his cousin Molly. He also has male cousins who are his age, but they pick on or slightly bully him for wearing short, red shorts. Molly seems to be the only that likes Ryder.

However, Ryder and Molly are alone in the barn not far from Ryder's grandma's house. We don't see what happens, but all of a sudden, Molly comes running and she has a blood stain on the lower part of her dress. She's also screaming. Ryder comes running behind her. Keith gets upset and freaks out, assuming that Ryder did something to Molly. It's never spoken but the assumption was that it was some kind of sexual assault.

It's never meant for the audience to believe that Ryder did anything wrong, but everyone in the family, especially Keith, look at Ryder suspiciously. For a spell, Sobel's narrative feels like a riff on Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt (2013), but from that moment forward no one's actions make any sense. It's Sobel intentionally trying to obfuscate. He throws out questions he has no interest in answering. He presents behavior that he has no interest in explaining. He builds to an incident at a nearby river called "chicken fighting" but it's never expounded what the significance of it is.

One Star out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 24 mins.


Popular Posts