The shame is that there is such a dedicated work in a film that almost defiantly rejects all sorts of nuances. It is one of those projects that constantly describe its themes through an unrealistic dialogue. We don’t need a character who says, “If I could cut any memory out of my head, I would.” We know that. It is a film in which everyone too often says what he thinks and feels, becomes more interesting in his calmer moments, a fallen look of the foster or a sympathetic of the cancer. They are great performers – I just wish “The Survivor” had a movie wrapped around them that lived up to their skills.
There is a similar sense that solid performances are buried in the lackluster filmmaking that permeates Scott McGehee in the David Siegelis disappointing family drama “Montana History.” Two excellent young performers get along well enough, but a slow pace that feels almost designed to mimic the speed of life in the Big Sky Country goes too far, leading to a movie that drifts with the wind instead of driving its emotional underpinnings home.
Owen Teague (the recent version of “The Stand”) plays Cal Thorne, a young man who returns from Cheyenne to the heart of Montana to say goodbye to his late father Wade. Trapped in the machines on his own ranch, the only people left around Wade are his longtime co-worker Valentina (Kimberly Guerrero) and his wise nurse Ace (Gilbert Owuor), who tells Cal that Wade has no story to tell. All his chapters are written.
However, the same is not true for Cal or his sister Erin (Haley Lu Richardson), who returns home for the first time in seven years. The film takes too long to explain why Erin was distracted by Cal and Wade, but it comes back to an abusive past, including a special incident that divided the siblings forever. “Montana Story” is basically about using the death of a father to heal the wounds he caused in the first place. Teague and Richardson do not strike a single false note, but McGehee and Siegel allow their story to be told about this dusty country, recalling aspects of their past rather than actually retaining them as characters. These two young performers are the kind who might one day win awards, but not for this one.