God’s Country Review – Resonating, Strong Character Driven Performances

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God's Country, from IFC Midnight, brings to the screen a shocking character driven story that exposes the two sides of America, a simmering anger, loss of humanity, and the thin line that separates the two.

The film begins at a crematorium, where we see Sandra Guidry, played by Thandie Newton, waiting as the remains are rolled into the incinerator. She watches through the window as the remains of a family member are reduced to ashes. It is jarring in its stark reality.


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Throughout the film, the director has chosen to create the imagery of we are but a speck on this planet, against the wide expanse of country. Set against the majestic mountains of the west, Sandra is driving to her home. Once she enters her home, we understand there was a long illness, and she was the caregiver.

Even as the death was expected, the loss is very present. A tenured tracked professor at a local rural community college, she is also finishing up the semester. A faculty search is underway and the chair of the department, Arthur, played by Kai Lennox, is announcing the candidates. He appears enlightened, understanding and offers condolences for mother.

When she arrives home, she finds a strange truck parked in her driveway and leaves a note on the windshield explaining this is private property and not to park in the driveway. This seemingly small infraction comes at a time when any minor disturbance escalates quickly.


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We learn that the two men, Nathan, played by Joris Jarsky, and Samuel, played by Jefferson White are local hunters, with attitudes. The note is disregarded and crumpled in the snow. Soon the hunters are back. Sandra decides to take matters into her own hands. This is where we learn that she was a decorated police officer in New Orleans. She pops the lock on the truck and tows it out of her driveway. And telephones the police.

The local acting Sheriff Wolf, played by Jeremy Bobb, explains the judicial system in the wide-open west. One sheriff for the local town, and more country than can be covered. Up in the mountains, where she lives is common sense, cool heads, and hope for the best justice. Her situation has already reached those boundaries.

She is considered a non-threat and as it is at this time, while she is grieving the loss of her mother, she is even more emotional derailed or so they thought. While the grief is raw, she moves to assert her authority. With each infraction, she counters.


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It appears that the hunters understood and began to use the driveway at Arthur, her neighbor's, house. This is where she appears to have lost her judgment. Instead of allowing him to deal with the situation, she confronts the hunters after they have bagged a deer.

This, couple with the loss of her mother, and PTSD which we understand is from Hurricane Katrina, seems to drive her over the edge. With all her reason, skills, education, and enlightenment she in one move allows herself to become a mirror to those she loathes.


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God's Country is a reminder of the small part humans play over the course of time, and the need to find different ways to handle the egregious violence that can be brought on a life. The cinematography is stunning and is clearly used to depict the loneliness of the character, the smallness of humanity against all that does not pass away, and more even a hiding place from reality, influence, and life. The ensemble cast deliver authentic performances as they each move to the point of no return.

God's Country is in theaters. Check local listings. See it.

 

Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 102minutes.

Release Date: September 9, 2022.

Director: Julian Higgins.

Producer: Miranda Bailey, Halee Bernard, Julian Higgins, Amanda Marshall.

Writer: Shaye Ogbonna, Julian Higgins.

Cast: Thandie Newton, Jeremy Bobb, Joris Jarsky, Jefferson White, Kai Lennox, Tanaya Beatty.

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