The Driftless Area
Anton Yelchin, Zooey Deschanel, John Hawkes
…hard to embrace…
The Driftless Area starts with bartender, Pierre (Anton Yelchin), standing by the side of the road hitching a ride from the suspicious looking Shane (John Hawkes). There’s a fight, and Pierre escapes, leaving an unconscious Shane face down in his pickup truck. As opening scenes go, it’s perfectly performed and hints of subtle laughs and Coen Brothers-style drama to come.
Unfortunately, this feature film debut from Zachary Sluser fails to recapture the magic of that opening, which ends up feeling like it came from a different film entirely. The rest of the tale is narrated by Pierre’s friend, Carrie (Alia Shawkat), who paints his life as a mixture of boredom and never really trying hard at anything. When Pierre finally meets Stella (Zooey Deschanel), he opens up to her in a way that he never could before. Stella has her own secrets though, and we learn early on that she could potentially be the spirit of a woman who died in a house fire, using Pierre to get revenge on her “killer.”
Despite having the potential for an interestingly spiritual indie film, The Driftless Area drags its heels, and its languid pacing and mumbled dialogue is uninvolving. Elsewhere, Frank Langella is underused as an all-knowing hermit who also acts as a caretaker for Stella. No secret is made of the fact that Shane is the one who started the house fire, but even so, when he confesses to new lover, Jean (Aubrey Plaza), it never feels like his admission of guilt means anything. It’s actually the simple retelling from Stella’s point of view that gives this thread its emotion. Overall, The Driftless Area looks beautiful, and its mix of magic realism and noir sensibilities are tantalising, but it’s such a cold film that it’s hard to embrace it.