Sweet Virginia Reviews
Problem with small towns is everybody leaves 'em. Thus small town stories tend to be based on romanticized memories (be it good or bad) from the point of city slickers. And since most folks reside in giant metropolises, it becomes difficult to pronounce judgement on this evaporating way of life.
Sweet Virginia is one such film beast. It is both good and bad. A good film, about bad people, but chiefly it is about America.
Set in murky Alaska, but filled with soft, southern accented characters, it takes place in a tiny, forgotten place, where people struggle for money, hide their histories, wear baseball caps, drive pickups, move at a snail's pace, and settle their matters in a violent fashion.
At the centre of a nifty noire tangle is an uncomfortable buddy-buddy relationship between an aw-shucks former rodeo star trying unsuccessfully to live a low-key life as a motel owner, and a troubled, snaky hit man. Jon Bernthal is terrific as the reluctant good guy, who innocently befriends the dark stranger in town - a perfectly tense and edgy Christopher Abbott. We know this won't end well, but that is not the point. This is less about the resolution and more about the journey.
"Sweet Virginia" dares to peek under the covers of a sleepy place rampant with familiarity but teeming with excruciating loneliness. One that usually keeps it's secrets well buried. Usually.
As the movie started, I got nervous, this is NOT a movie I would have proactively chosen to see. If it were on Netflix, I might have bailed after the first bit. Why? It's not my thing.
However, Canadian director Jaime M. Dagg takes the China Brothers script and flawlessly captures a segment of time and a series of events (with ridiculously fantastic acting) to bring the audience into the lives of some people. There is violence, but none of it is gratuitous. There is sex, but again, integral to the story and character development. I don't even want to tell you anything, because if you're like me, you're going to think, uh oh, train wreck, please don't go there... It goes there. And yet it doesn't. After the film, we got to hear from the director and I think I've fallen in love with his work. I now have to go watch his first film and will watch anything he makes in the future. I love the way he thinks, I love how he made a $2.5 million "small budget" movie with a vision that never wavered. The claustrophobia you feel from the way things unfold completely contrast with the beautiful backdrop of the Rockies.