Visitors are a problem, but one who's a family member adds a layer of thrills.
Co-Directors: Jason Cortlund (Now Forager), Julia Halperin (Now Forager)
Screenplay: Jason Cortlund
Cast: Alison Tolman (The Gift), Sophie Reid (Beauty and the Beast)
Runtime: 1 hr 40 min
by John DeSando
I have always enjoyed those Flannery O’Connor stories where a visitor “changes things.” So, too, is writer/co-director Jason Courtland’s (with co-director Julia Halperin) Barracuda, about a young woman, Sinaloa (Sophie Reid), who visits her half sister, Merle (Alison Tolman) in Austin for the first time. Sinaola does change things but not as fast as you might expect nor as clearly as I would like.
However, I may ask too much because family connections are never straightforward, dealing as we do with layers of biology and experience. In Barracuda (the fish depicted on her dad’s guitar and an apt metaphor for her), Sinaloa can barely be accepted into the family, even with her talent and knowledge of her deceased dad’s music.
Country, bluegrass, and folk music are interwoven with the slow disclosure of the legacies, e.g., dad was "a drunk, a drug addict and a cheater." She’s suspected of falsely claiming kinship or arriving to cut herself into the inheritance, which could be considerable given the parcel of land the family owns. Yet, really, most of them, especially her half-sister, are just trying to figure out why she’s there and where she’s going.
The film is successful not letting us deeply onto Sinaloa’s psyche except for a flash of her occasional discomfort at family interactions or Merle’s suspicious and unlikeable mother, Patricia (JoBeth Williams). Slowly, very slowly, Sinaloa’s true character and intentions become clearer. Most everything relates to her exclusion from the family--her resolution is dramatic but not surprising.
No surprise that Bruce Beresford is a producer of this film, he the director of Tender Mercies, a milder rendition of this film’s underlying family disabilities. Like bloodline and family in real life, this thriller has few certainties, exacerbated by the visitor who changes things.
If you’re patient, you’ll enjoy one of the year’s oddest and most perplexing indies.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com