Brown's Canyon (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Shot on a micro-budget, Brown's Canyon is crisply made with a quintet of actors given the room to create and develop characters on their own.
Writer/director Josh Helde crafts a thoughtful and endearing story about three women and two unexpected visitors forced to stick it out over a weekend when weather dictates they must stay.
Authentic, well-acted, and confidently composed, Brown's Canyon is a move that will have older viewers thinking about their lives and why they have chosen to do the things they do.
DIalogue-heavy, if you are not a fan of a movie with lots of people talking, Brown's Canyon is not the movie for you.
This is a film that is hard to sell outside of the arthouse, no matter how good a film it truly is.
There is a distinct potential that after a few minutes with these characters, no one will seem all that likable. If you cannot connect with the characters, these are some long 94 minutes.
In Josh Helde’s new film, Brown’s Canyon, we see optimism and the hope of new beginnings slip out of the grasp of two friends within the first ten minutes.
Written and directed by Helde, and largely improvised by his five-actor ensemble (the story is credited to all principal actors), we initially meet Stephi (Lisa Every) and Allison (Jenn Rezumna) as they arrive at a spacious Utah home, owned by Stephi’s sister, but vacant for a few weeks. Joining them is friend and photographer Pat (Sara Thiessen) who helps them prepare for the launch of their new business venture – life coaching.
Together, they have planned a woman’s-only mindfulness retreat with 15 attendees booked and on their way. However, mere moments after their arrival, a disagreement regarding the weekend’s scheduling causes tempers to flare momentarily. Sadly, this becomes foreshadowing for a series of unfortunate events and circumstances along the way.
Surprisingly, Allison’s husband Tom (Carter Rodriquez) and his best friend Billy (Eric Jordan) show up. Planning to leave the following morning, Stephi ventures outside the house, only to discover a mudslide has washed out the one road traveling in and out to the residence. When Tom and Billy agree to walk to the neighbor’s home to see if they can help clear out the road, no one is there. So naturally, through an unlocked side door, they find and bring back fresh salami, cheese, and crackers.
Stuck together, things spiral downward and Helde’s film is here for all of it. We see uncomfortable conversations, hear gender dynamics debated, people accelerating and decelerating with one another, and more than a handful of difficult truths become unearthed, discussed, and exposed. At times, this is a verbal chess match among the five housemates while, in other moments, there is a nurturing occurring.
“When the guys showed up, the whole dynamic changed. I want a women’s-power weekend!” Pat shares with Stephi, as they prepare to do yoga together. Helde underscores an importance of the moment between the moments. If a conversation becomes ensnarled in misunderstanding or frustration, we are shown moments that are sweeter and meaningful. Allison and Stephi sneaking a cigarette. Tom and Bobby playing ping pong in the garage. Pat taking pictures of the gorgeous land outside the house. Largely, the scenes and moments matter here – to the characters, to the story, to the film, and to the viewer.
Brown’s Canyon is relatable, strengthened by authentic, lived-in performances from its cast, each richly talented and blooming with the opportunity to create depth and layers to their characters. The honesty is cutting, the dialogue sharp, and Helde (also the film’s editor) creates a nice cadence for viewers to tap into.
Not everything works over the course of 94 minutes. As the movie pushes along into the final 20-25 minutes, there are moments where it feels like Helde is simply brainstorming scenarios with his cast to create more and more conflict. Unfortunately, later in the film, the movie tends to become weighted down in an effort to introduce new disputes a few too many times. A top-heavy Tom and Allison storyline begins to overwhelm the proceedings and though always well-acted, elements of the film can feel forced and a bit stilted in execution.
Overall, Brown’s Canyon is a very good film, one that will easily entertain and impress fans of intimate, small-scale, micro-budgeted independent cinema. Dialogue rich, the film is thoughtful, earnest, and explores the delicate nature of trust, love, and relationships in an immersive and believable way.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Lisa Every, Jenn Ruzumna, Sara Thiessen, Carter Rodriquez, Eric Jordan.
Director: John Helde
Written by: John Helde (screenplay); Lisa Every, Jenn Ruzumna, Sara Thiessen, Carter Rodriquez, Eric Jordan (story).
Release Date: January 19, 2018
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