July 22, 2013

Shotgun Stories

Jeff Nichols, 2007

Son Hayes learns of his fathers death. Reflecting on years of abuse by the man, he decides to make an appearance at his funeral. When he describes the man that he knew, his father's children from his second marriage defend his character which creates a feud between the half brothers.

Nichols directs a truly heavy piece here. These complicated but reserved characters, placed in front of a bleak industrial landscape, surely have years of history - most of which is not pleasant. The sounds of their father still resonate through the barren fields behind their asbestos-sided shack. Michael Shannon is perfectly cast as the ambiguously named Son Hayes, older brother of Boy Hayes (Douglas Ligon) and Kid Hayes (Barlow Jacobs). The brothers' lack of formal names only adds to the mystique of their past, and the years they try to forget. The sudden quarrel between the half brothers feels authentic, and the build up of tension and the growing conflict feels very real. Almost too real. Certainly a study on ones lack of control, of feeding into a particular impulse, not really thinking of any consequences. The rival Hayes boy's, who were raised by a sober Father Hayes, saw a different man. A man they were proud to have his blood pumping through their veins. A man they were proud to defend. There is a certain sense of sympathy for these boys too, because they don't know the person that Son Hayes describes. They were treated to the upgraded Father Hayes. Unfortunately all Son Hayes can see is his father in every one of his half brothers. Like they are a living ghost. You wonder if they could possibly bury the hatchet, could they connect with each other? Or is the town too small for all of Hayes boys? Perhaps there isn't enough farmland in the rural town to bury the memories.

There is a noticeable sense of maturity to the film by Nichols. The acoustic guitar riff echoes through the film and only augments the melodrama. It finally plays out at the ending credits, serving as a catharsis to the long constructed angst. While not a happy piece to watch by any means, it's a compelling drama that makes an impression. 

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