In the midst of the Great Depression, a poor farming family, isolated in a mountainside, ekes out a meager existence from the land and a handful of small farm animals. Father ( Mark Aaron) is the stoic patriarch who speaks very little, but always finds a way to keep his family fed. Ma ( Bernadette Murray) does the cooking, sewing and cares for the youngest son. Eldest son Job ( Sean Thomas), teenaged daughter Mary-Ann (Lucy Adden) and Paul ( Kathan Fors), obey their parents without question or defiance, fully accepting the fate God has dictated for them; that is until the morning the unthinkable happens; Mama wakes to find that all the animals are gone.
Mama instantly believes that her animal loving daughter has released them, but Mary-Ann swears that she did not free the family’s only food supply. Father sees no other choice be to go on a hunting party to a valley a few days away, in search of food. Job suggests that his friend from town, Charlie Mills, join them.
Charlie ( Toben Seymour) agrees, although his good nature is appreciated by no one in the family – no one except Mary-Ann. Papa is more than suspicious about the way this young man from town is looking at his daughter. Although his instincts turn out to be dead on, will he act upon those suspicions without proof? Will he confront Charlie while the three men are alone in the wilderness? Will the hunting party lead to game? Moreover, will the men return in time to save the family left behind from starvation?
Redland garners the well-deserved 2010 Best Cinematography Award from the Brooklyn Film Festival. Writer / Director Asiel Norton has indeed filled his film with shots ranging from the random tracking of a single insert as it travels across a blade of grass, to recklessly close physical altercations between characters, with no real regard for the audience. The composition starts out intriguing but eventually becomes a great deal of work to even see that is doing on in the frame. The photographic style of the film is decidedly Malickian – non-linear, heavily filtered, dream-like. Asiel demonstrates great skill in building tension, aided by the use of judicious cross-cutting and Ryan Bartley & Michael Palmerio’s superb editing.
The solid cast of Redland gives admirable performances. Mark Aaron’s Father is ominous with actually coming off as the villain of the piece. Lucy Adden’s Mary-Ann is the embodiment of all that is natural, beautiful and innocence. She balances a lovely childlike wonder with a sobering, instinctual acceptance of her fate.
However, not much happens. And what does transpire is no surprise. For a film that is obsessive in its depiction of countless natural wonders, the story gives very little reverence to the way in which the human element unfolds. Redland is a film overflowing with lush, uniquely grand landscapes, centered by an anticlimactic, lackluster parable.
Redland opens in limited release beginning March 11, 2011.
Written & Directed by Asiel Norton
Cast: Mark Aaron, Lucy Adden, Sean Thomas, Bernadette Murray, Kathan Fors, Toben Seymour
Running Time: 104 minutes