Friday, June 05, 2009

"Shotgun Stories" (2007) - Movie Review

“Shotgun Stories” leaves me lost for words. It has a pleasant vibe to the terror of eventual violence approaching any minute now. Being in our toes is not the first thing in mind to think when seeing a film about the bond between the brothers. They are men of few words especially Son Hayes (Michael Shannon) but when he does, the weight of each words pulls you upfront and wonder what if he speaks often. You would not want him to. This is a story of that man and his brothers Boy Hayes (Douglas Ligon) and Kid Hayes (Barlow Jacobs). It is the tale of Son fighting within to fuel or calm his hate towards his estranged dad’s other family in the same town.

His wife has left him for his gambling issue which is something he practices at his house trying to work down the system. When the house is empty, he wakes up his youngest brother Kid to move in the house from his tent which he has setup in Son’s back yard. He goes to Boy, a middle aged obese calm person. He is toned down and lives in his van. Unshaven and with shabby hair, he takes the invite and the brothers spend the night at their house when their mother (Natalie Canerday) drops by. She calls up Son from the front door through Kid and informs that their father is dead. Next day he goes to the funeral and speaks. That defines the aftermath and subsided hate to the next stage. From there on begins the opportune from both sets of half brothers to vent their anger on each other.

The enmity is the film and as the big brother Son is the one who has seen the origins of this hate. Her mother did a good work on all of them to not being spiteful but stream through in their instinct to nurture it wherein it has become a part of their behaviour. Son knows that it has grown into him and his brothers. What happened as the kid we do not know and the shell wounds on the back of Son is a lingering judgment of his violent past. In this town of shrilling calmness are these brothers going through their day.

The film as the characters is a piece of perplexed feeling. Boy is the bum and he is what you say a little lazy. Be it working his life or fixing his radio. A man with unusual ideas. He screwed up van’s stereo system by plugging the cigarette lighter outlet to a cheap Air Conditioner. He would like to build a house inside his van and live may be the rest of his life. Son yet likes him and we come to like him for what he is. A complete harmless soul finding his daily life in coaching kids in basketball. He talks the strategy with Kid. Kid is well, kid. A young man with pumping energy and temper. He is impulsive. He is vocal and cusses at Boy for not joining the fight with the half brothers. Son does not speak as he is with his son Carter (Cole Hendrixson). He drops his son and comes back to the van. He says the most mature thing to Kid of staying away from trouble in the brotherly threatening mode. Then he turns back to Boy and tells “This is the last time you stay out of a fight” Where does Son gets that rage channelled so focussed and most of all articulating it without appearing artificial or a joke is no surprise as he has seen the face of him so many times in the extremes within.

There is so much hurt in Son’s face but no muscle moves. He poses the stature of a person seen things and endured it. His mind is a non-stop rage factory. Every action Son makes right from the manner in which he holds his coffee cup and walks back to his yard till the time he sits in front of the house peacefully for once alongside Boy, Michael Shannon is nothing short of spot on with Son. He gives the man being defeated by the work of his upbringing and submitting cheaply to his habits.

The love he shows for his brothers, son and especially his wife Annie (Glenda Pannell) is unseen in the portrayal of people caring in the films. Plucking guitar strings to the day’s casual but normal capture of time, musicians Lucero and Pyramid does the justice to the settings the film is in. The town where few people live and has an oddball of characters who becomes witnesses and news cariers for the tragedy and instigation. That would be Shampoo (G. Alan Wilkins). He pesters Kid to let his car be parked at Son’s place and remembers to drop a news about the other Hayes faithfully.

In the unnamed and unmentioned town these people drive by Writer/Director Jeff Nichols erects the powerful nature of humans submitting to their instincts and unable to justify their action to themselves. This cycle of hatred which rationally seems to make sense in the easy step of stopping it, never does happen in action. More the sense searches for the logic in being rational, more is the frustration to not abide by it extends. “Shotgun Stories” is a gentle piece of work from a director who understands the world of towns and the families they adhere to with a rhythm of unusual beauty. David Gordon Green who is one of the executive producer knows that Nichols is the man of his taste. And out here Nichols does not mimic Green or the other country somber tale but invents his own. In it there are parents starting a life good and bad for their kids and the kids seeing what they have become trying to find the left over soul in it for peace, failing every time. “Shotgun Stories” is a great tale of three brothers who simply love each other and their only way of showing it is through protecting and defending beyond their control.

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