Movie Review – God’s Country (2022) – DelmarvaLife

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.

James Lee Burke is an 85-year-old author who has written nearly two dozen books about a homicide detective named Dave Robicheaux. His book series was successful enough that Hollywood made two movies based on them. The first was Prisoners of the sky (1996), with Alec Baldwin. The second was In the electric mist (2009), starring Tommy Lee Jones. One of his other works has also been adapted for television. His works focus on people and places along the Gulf Coast, either his home state of Texas or neighboring Louisiana. In fact, 20 years ago, Burke received a special award from Louisiana for how his writing brought the Pelican State to light. Burke’s jesus at sea (2007) is a collection of ten short stories about the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit Louisiana in August 2005 and caused billions in damage and killed thousands.

“Winter Light” is one of these ten short stories. It’s about a retired college professor from Louisiana who now lives in an unnamed state but whose log home sits at the head of a canyon, next to a forest, and in an area which receives a fair amount of snow and ice in December. Director and co-writer Julian Higgins took the basic premise of this short story and made some changes, expanding it and incorporating themes from Burke’s book as a whole. One of the changes is that Burke’s story centered on a white male pensioner. Higgins swapped the gender and race of the protagonist.

Thandiwe Newton (Westworld and Emergency room) plays the role of Cassandra Guidry aka “Sandra”. She seems biracial but she probably identifies as a black woman. She is a professor at the nearby university, but she is not retired. She still teaches. The identity of the protagonist has been reversed in almost every way, but the essential conflict is always the same, namely the fight against loneliness and isolation, as well as the way in which even minor tensions can escalate into life. spirit of this solitary and isolated character. In Burke’s story, the protagonist was dealing with a divorce that seemed rather recent. Here, Sandra deals with the death of her mother, whom Sandra was breastfeeding at home.

In Burke’s story, the protagonist was just a college professor and nothing else. Here, Sandra became a teacher only after leaving Louisiana, more precisely New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. I don’t know if this is a story that Higgins took from another story in jesus at sea, but it certainly fits the themes of Burke’s book as a whole. Plus, it enriches that character and explains why making her a black person is appropriate and more relevant, given where Higgins is taking this story.

Jeremy Bobb (Russian doll and The Knick) stars as Gus Wolf, the deputy sheriff who is one of the few law enforcement officers in this area. When two local hunters make Sandra feel threatened, she calls Gus for help. He comes across as dismissive and possibly bigoted, but there’s something a little more complex there. As Sandra learns it is difficult for him as it becomes apparent that if trouble arises he is understaffed and unarmed, given that this rural area is populated by men who are likely armed. to the teeth with rifles and shotguns, as well as other forms of weapons.

This suggests a kind of anarchy that exists in this area. Many people criticize cities or urban areas as places of anarchy, but this film, like Burke’s story, makes it clear that anarchy can exist in rural and predominantly white areas or towns of the so-called Central America. Through an interaction with Gus, it is revealed that many white men in this area have no respect for law enforcement. People in a particular political party are always bragging that they are the political party that is for “law and order” and that is touting “Blue Lives Matter”. However, this film shows how people who might be associated with this political party have even less respect for police and law enforcement than anyone on the far left.

Joris Jarsky (The small things and V-saw) plays Nathan, one of the local hunters who drives his red truck with his brother, Samuel, played by Jefferson White (Yellowstone and How to get away with murder), in the forest next to Sandra’s place. Nathan and his brother run into Sandra when he parks his truck on Sandra’s property without her permission. The movie doesn’t really properly delineate where Sandra’s ownership begins and ends. Burke’s story points to the fact that the protagonist has signs that read “Private Road” and “No Trespassing”, but Higgins’ film doesn’t show us that signage.

Sandra clarifies that she doesn’t want them parking on her property, but I think Higgins is doing with Nathan what Burke didn’t really do in the book. Higgins tries to show that Nathan isn’t just a racist redneck who only cares about hunting. Yes, Nathan and Samuel are two of the antagonists or villains in this story, but Higgins shows there are more. They’re not just bad. On the contrary, Higgins shows that these men, particularly Samuel, might have more in common with people of color living in cities than even Samuel realizes. In the city center, black people have faced the issue of Black Lives Matter, which involves unarmed black men being shot dead by police. Higgins’ film doesn’t delve too deeply into it, but a scene with Samuel involves an incident that would allow him to relate.

Kai Lennox (Plainville’s daughter and Unbelievable) rounds out the cast as Arthur, a fellow college professor who works at the same college as Sandra. He may be heading his department or also working as a dean in the school. She has meetings with Arthur and other professors at the school because they are trying to find candidates to hire at the university. In the few scenes with Arthur, we get a glimpse of various problems that arise in universities and other institutions. These issues include racism, sexism and the Me Too movement. These issues are briefly but powerfully addressed here. Lennox’s performance against Newton’s is incredible.

What’s fascinating is that this film is largely a thriller where this woman struggles or fights these very problematic men. There’s an indication that the movie might turn into something akin to straw dogs (1971). However, it shifts from being a major part of a thriller to being a drama about a woman facing discrimination and even abuse at her educational institution. I really started to appreciate the movie more for those aspects. This made aspects of the thriller over the top and almost inconsequential. Basically, when Sandra deals with Arthur and her school stuff, that’s where the movie really shines. Unfortunately, the film takes up the thriller aspects or Sandra facing Nathan and Samuel. Still, Higgins’ direction here is so strong overall that the movie still works.

Rated R for language.
Operating time: 1 hour. and 42 mins.

In theaters.

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