Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Matthew Pope and Don H. Thompson's BLOOD ON HER NAME: a tightly-wound, suspenseful unveiling-of-character study

A near-perfect example of what an American independent movie used to occasionally achieve but these days rarely even attempts, BLOOD ON HER NAME is a dark and magical melding of small-town southern gothic, neo-noir and character study that grabs and holds us from first frame onward.

Directed and co-written (with Don H. Thompson) by Matthew Pope, shown at right -- his first full-length feature -- the movie immediately puts you in the shoes and spirit of its heroine, Leigh Tiller, who appears to have maybe just killed a man.

But come on: She's a slight and frightened female, so of course we're in her corner. And despite some pretty bad choices on her part, we're meant to stay there.

Leigh is played by Bethany Anne Lind (above and below) with the kind of moment-to-moment intensity and utter honesty that would garner any actress in an "A" movie an Oscar nod for a role this well-written and acted. But Blood on Her Hands is a small "B" movie, though it honors that particular genre about as well as anything TrustMovies has seen of late. (Last year, either, for that matter.)

As we learn how Leigh helps create and then negotiate the repercussions from what has happened here, as well as -- piecemeal, which keeps the suspense full throttle -- why it has happened, our understanding of just who this woman really is forms more fully. At the same time, our sense of what morality means and how much more fluid and difficult a thing it can be keeps growing and changing.

By movie's end, when another character tells her, "You're a good woman, Leigh," we can only wish that, somehow, maybe she weren't. This is one unusually tense and tricky film -- especially where right and wrong are concerned. It makes you hold on for dear life to that old saw, Honesty is the best policy.

Ms Lind's performance doesn't just ground the film -- she's in, I believe, every scene -- she buoys it, too. And the ace supporting cast could hardly have been bettered. Leigh's father, the town cop, is played close-to-the-vest and smartly by Will Patton (above), while young actor Jared Ivers essays her teenage son with just the right amount of caring and distance, having been kept in the dark and thus semi-protected by his mom.

Among the unusual array of very mixed-bag characters on display here, Elisabeth Röhm (you can just barely see some of her blond hair at left, below), playing the wife of the film's initial victim, registers particularly strongly and surprisingly, while Jimmy Gonzales (above), stalwart and sensitive, plays the loyal and decent co-worker at Leigh's auto shop, the character who probably comes closest of any in the film to what we might call "normal."

Blood on Her Hands is a story of a family faced with questions of survival and morality that render difficult choices inevitable. Most (well, many) of us have probably never had to face these. The movie is about what happens when we do -- even when we're "good" women or men.

From Vertical Entertainment and running a sleek, swift 84 minutes, the film makes its theatrical debut in Brooklyn at the Nighthawk Cinema this Thursday, February 27, for one night only, and will hit another eleven theaters across the country the following day for a weeklong run: also in Brooklyn at the Kent Theatre; in Santa Monica, CA, at Laemmle's Monica Film Center; in Chicago at the Studio Movie Grill, Chatham; in Dallas, TX, at the Studio Movie Grill, Spring Valley; in Marietta, GA, at the Studio Movie Grill, Marietta; in Houston, TX, at the Studio Movie Grill, Pearland; in Tampa, FL, at the Studio Movie Grill, Tampa; in Rogers, MN, at the Emagine, Rogers; in Homestead, FL, at the Flagship, Homestead; in Kissimmee, FL, at the Studio Movie Grill, Sunset Walk; and in Columbus, OH, at the Gateway Film Center. For those not living in these cities, the movie will simultaneously be available via VOD. 

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