Brian C. Miller Richard, debuting as a feature director, moulds his story from two materials – faith and family. His “Lost Bayou”, though not entirely perfect, firmly balances these two, and unfolds a heartfelt tale of a prodigal daughter’s comeback.
Making a movie about religion in 2019 isn’t particularly easy.
With films like “Unplanned”, an unhinged drama fuelled by dangerously vigorous support from Catholic extremist believers, religion turns into a taboo. It’s like handling explosives made from shady materials – you never know where and when it’s gonna tear you into pieces.
However Richard, the director of “Lost Bayou”, isn’t afraid to go down that risky lane. In an opening scene of the film, an anonymous bearded man explains how his legal death, as he calls it, was reversed by a mysterious man. Judging from his testimony, you might wonder – is this just another pointless propaganda stuffing?
I’ll save your nerves and assure that Richard is far from shoving biblical wisdom down anybody’s throat.
The bearded man’s image dissolves after the prologue. In a blink of an eye, the focus shifts to Gal (Teri Wyble) – a skinny, short-hair blonde with a haggard look. Gal finds remedy in booze and drugs, and when her detuned life seems to reach a definite dead end, her father calls to pass on rather disturbing information.
An essential part of this story is based on the duality of understanding resurrection as a concept. Gal grows bitter, and uninterested in any emotional reimbursement her father craves to offer. However, her father’s the only close person she has, therefore he’s the hand ready to help revive her dying light. Gal’s cold heart melts, and the need to bond with the estranged father grows stronger as she understands his good intentions and change. Pop, as referred to in the entire film, has also the parental responsibility to keep. But for him, rebuilding the family ties comes along with reinventing the value of faith for Gal.
That’s where religion sneaks into the Richard’s movie almost imperceptibly. Without the need to shuffle with big words and hollow “words to live by”, Richard proves that faith provides a fuel for those in need. Faith is not necessarily understood as God or church, or as converting others, but rather as a kind of will to survive that can be passed onto others. Some might see this approach as naive or far-fetched, and yes – it is overly simplistic. However, it’s still the kind of perspective we lack these days, which makes “Lost Bayou” an effective story.
On a more technical side, most of the movie has been located in sultry swamps, where Gal’s father (Dane Rhodes) lives in a raft house. This unique setting is put to good use by cinematographer Natalie Kingston, whose previous experience of working in Louisiana resurfaces in “Lost Bayou”. There’s an essential part of darkness and loneliness extracted from the backwoods and the slow river’s streams. When combined with country-americana soundtrack, these greenish frames create an aesthetically engaging film.
For an indie drama, carried on the shoulders of two towering performances from Dane Rhodes and Teri Wyble, “Lost Bayou” has enough reason to defend its shortcuts. I’m sure that fans of independent cinema will cherish it.
Lost Bayou (2019)
Dir. Brian C. Miller Richard
Hate Grade: 3/10
Overall evalutation: Elegantly executed, and told without superfluous statements about religion, “Lost Bayou” sells the value of family and faith for a decent price.