Film Reviews


By • May 17th, 2016 •

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TAKE ME TO THE RIVER is the first feature film by newcomer Matt Sobel, a tense, funny-and-unfunny family drama that premiered in the NEXT category at Sundance, was picked up by Film Movement and opened recently in New York. I am not sure “tense” adequately describes the emotions evoked by the days that out-gay teenager, Ryder (Logan Miller) spends at his mom’s family reunion at their ranch in rural Nebraska. For that matter, I’m not sure “rural” describes a place that seems retaken by the prairie, where men are more cowboy hat than head, and the horses know where they’re going by themselves – all beautifully shot by DP Thomas Scott, though the director’s intention was not to make it look pretty. But more of that in a second.

The word I was looking for might be “nerve-wracking.” Not in the sense of a horror film, though again, that was a look Sobel wanted, making us look at things in a flat, inescapable way. But in the sense of a vulnerable kid who can’t help sticking his chin out and who has no chance of protecting himself by picking up the cues. This well-loved, only child – until moments ago, the sole focus of a hipster nuclear family — is on his own. His mother has fallen down a very deep rabbit hole, and his father has no clue.

Neither do we, but we don’t know that. Sobel plays with our own well-worn assumptions about gender and sexuality, city slickers and gun-toting hicks. The plot seems to revolve around a precocious 9 year-old girl, played with bravura by Ursula Parker, but she is only the Geiger Counter, vibrating louder and louder as we near a primal buried secret. By the way, precocious is probably not the word either, but it’s a tribute to both actor and director that the innocence of emerging sexuality is preserved.

I think I was so nervous during the film that at first I didn’t like it as much as I ultimately did. I have found myself still thinking and talking about it for two weeks. Let me know it you do, too.

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