There’s No Place Like Home (Film Review: “American Fable”)

american fablePOSTERA wondrous tale of disillusioned family loyalty, heartbreaking betrayal and a coming of age in an Americana that may be more fairy tale than reality.

 

SnapShot Plot

American Fable is one of those films that gets under your skin and into your dreams, despite its sometimes inexplicable story-line.  The time/place stamp is the American Midwest in the 80’s, in a farming community hard hit by the 1982 recession and trickle down Reaganomics. It’s gotten so bad in these parts that farmers have lost all hope and several have committed suicide.  A young girl nicknamed Gitty is an innocent, fresh faced exception to the worry around her, as expressed by her cynical mother, devoted father, and her sadistic and violent older brother. In an early scene in which he dares her to trust him, its an abrupt shock to witness what this boy is capable of. Gitty herself is another thing entirely.

Peyton Kennedy’s open, wide eyed face makes Gitty’s naivete and willingness to subscribe to the belief in good people and happy endings completely believable. Her father, Abe (who she worships) does the rest. His insistent, lifelong lectures on the majesty of the homeland and the sacredness of the family farm is held up as the gleaming credo upon which their very souls depend. There is no debate on the matter. Gitty herself lives in a semi-dream state, wafting in and out of elaborate fantasies in which Nature mixes with fairy tale elements, further mythologizing the Farm as the center of the universe, both sunny and dark, secure and dangerous.

Everything changes dramatically when Gitty makes a grim discovery, a man being held captive in an abandoned grain silo on a remote corner of the property. Thus begins a relationship and a dawning revelation about how complicit her own family may be in the trouble close at hand. More to the point for Gitty, her fierce loyalty to her father and their home is about to be put to the test in ways she could never foresee, to the point where there’s no turning back.

 

 

Parting Shot

In American Fable, writer/director Anne Hamilton has created a bold visual and narrative statement from the collective homage to films such as Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, Peter Weir’s Witness, and Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, among others. Some may criticize the film for this obvious borrowing while others will acknowledge the influences as inspiration. Indeed, in the lush, suggestively hallucinatory cinematography by Wyatt Garfield, the film resonates on its own visually spectacular merits. An immersive experience is further created by the evocative and haunting score by Gingger Shankar, achieving an overall tone of fragility and danger inherent in the story itself.

The casting of American Fable is spot on, with Kip Pardue as Gitty’s despairing father, and veteran character actor, Richard Schiff (The West Wing) as the man in the silo. And supporting actress, Rusty Schwimmer (as always) lends a Midwestern credibility to her small but crucial part as the new neighbor who plays a prominent role in the dire outcome of the events.

American Fable is a film that feels like a dream steeped in fairy tale and myth, which slowly wakes up to a modern day nightmare of real-life anxiety spreading like a cancer through the heartland. Happy endings can be tricky sometimes.

American Fable is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyNKDUZDHjE

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