Published on June 30th, 2017 | by Allan Brown0
EIFF 2017: Sweet Virginia
Movie Review: Sweet Virginia (2017)
UK Release Date: TBC
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director: Jamie M. Dagg
Writers: Benjamin China, Paul China
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Imogen Poots, Christopher Abbott, Rosemarie DeWitt, Odessa Young
Lies, deceit, betrayal and murder rock a small Alaskan town to its core in Jamie M. Dagg’s accomplished neo western; Sweet Virginia.
Three men lay dead in a bar. The hit-man (Christopher Abbott) responsible for the triple homicide – hired by the wife (Imogen Poots) of one of the now deceased, wants paid. When told it will take a few more days, this unpredictable psychopath decides to set up shop in a local motel run by a former rodeo champion (Jon Bernthal). This sets forth a catalogue of events and revelations that are destined to meet in a violent end.
Despite its explosive premise, Sweet Virginia is a relatively low-key character driven film. Themes of solitude and pain – both physical and emotional, are explored with notes of subtle tenderness. Bernthal plays against type as the kind hearted Sam. He, a once titan of the Virginia rodeo – whose credentials were known far and wide, now walks with a prominent limp in a body that’s riddled with nerve damage and trauma – the epitome of a broken man. Bernthal displays a kaleidoscope of emotion in his character. Whether in quiet moments of solace with Bernadette (Rosemarie Dewitt) or heartfelt exchanges with young Maggie (Odessa Young), he showcases his impressive range as an actor with flawless ability. These moments of quiet reflection play wonderfully well in contrast to the nail biting intensity Abbott’s mesmerizing portrayal of Elwood brings. His presence like a cloud of unrest haunts every scene with brooding uncertainty, and Abbott commands it with steely authority. Although Poots, Dewitt and Young share less screen time than Bernthal and Abbott, their performances – which are key to the main narrative and character arcs of both leads, are delivered with undeniable sincerity.
There can be no doubt that director Jamie M. Dagg (River) has crafted a dynamic and beautifully nuanced film that is dripping with grimace and palpability at every turn. And whilst the pockets of adrenaline certainly propel the film forward with vigour, its delicately woven characters in all their shades, is where the heart of the film really exists.
Summary: An accomplished thriller that boasts a plethora of exquisite performances