Dressed up in the narrative shroud of a chilling ghost story, director and co-writer Michael Linn (along with Keith Davenport) has crafted a cautionary tale that examines so many issues along its path that it very nearly collapses under their combined weight.
Lakota lawyer Shayla Stonefeather (Tonantzin Carmelo brings a convincing range of emotions and pushed-away fears to the character) takes small comfort in convicting one of her own, Robbie Whiteshirt (Joseph Medicine Blanket sears the victorious prosecutor with a look that oozes innocence) who ends up shot in cold blood before sentencing. Seeking respite and refuge from her Denver base, Shayla heads to her family home, but can’t escape the frequent feeling that something out there is watching her (most often lone wolves, staring down her soul until it cracks).
Silent father Sam (Charlie White Buffalo defines stoicism of the damned) is housebound, waiting to die—his inner demons bubbling to the surface in the form of brief physical outbursts of sketched horrors of the past. His dutiful wife (Carla-Rae Holland) has abandoned the marvels of drug medicine in favour of a better quality of life and death; modern Shayla doesn’t agree. Missing from the Stonefeather clan is Nathaniel (Tokala Clifford). Two years back her sibling went missing in spectacular fashion: neither he or companion Allan or their motorcycle have been seen or heard since.
These disparate threads are woven into a quilt and supported by a mood-enhancing score (Linn also penned the “Greensleeves” infused music) and some marvellous cinematography (Linn, again) that makes the most of the South Dakota landscape and its four-legged inhabitants (Shayla’s ride on the painted stallion is a treasure).
The men in the heroine’s life are current white boyfriend, Jonathan (Cory Brusseau) whose white supremacist demeanour and over-the-top lines “These people aren’t worth it” has an air of reverse stereotype that only weakens Shayla’s character (Why would she choose to date such a selfish bigot?) and long-ago boyfriend, Tom (Michael Spears)—now a resplendent-looking officer of the law. While they both share visions and experiences with the afterworld, the lack of any awkwardness in their scenes lessens the dramatic impact as the plot whirls towards its eerily exciting conclusion.
As the truth is gradually revealed, both father and daughter realize their respective memories of the same incidents have wreaked havoc with their lives and those in their circle. On this level, Linn’s film works beautifully and won’t disappoint those in search of a fascinating, mind-bending tale. JWR