God's country

God's country
Original title:God's country
Director:Julian Higgins
Running time:1022 minutes
Release date:16 september 2022
In the heart of the Mountain West winter landscape, a university professor living alone on the edge of the forest is confronted by two hunters who encroach on her land...

Mulder's Review

The American film festival has become for several years a festival celebrating the best of American independent cinema and beyond to discover on the big screen works rather intended for a direct release on VOD or on streaming platforms like Netflix. In the same way, the time is long gone when many leading American stars came to this festival or to meet the public during exciting press conferences ending with signing sessions for all film lovers. God's country is the proof par excellence. In this film at the crossroads of drama and thriller we find a supporting actress who finds here a first role made to measure. Thandiwe Newton (Mission Impossible 2 (2000), Crash (2004), Gringo (2018), Reminiscence (2021)) is certainly a great actress who has played memorable supporting roles throughout her international career, and this film proves that she is capable of taking on a leading role when it comes to an independent film.

Sandra Guidri (Thandiwe Newton) has left law enforcement and a large American city to become a college professor in the remote mountains of the American West and live quietly in an isolated house. Her tranquility is put to the test when she is confronted by two hunters she has caught trespassing on her property on several occasions. She is then drawn into a confrontation with dramatic consequences.

The fact of placing the action of the film in beautiful American landscapes and creating a real atmosphere with a very slow pace may displease some viewers expecting a violent film. However, director and co-writer Julian Higgins, with the help of Shaye Ogbonna, succeeded in adapting James Lee Burke's short story Winter's Light in a convincing way and celebrating the wild Montana region. The result is a bewitching film marked by the remarkable performance of Thandiwe Newton as a woman marked by her past who tries to escape the ghosts of her past and live in peace with her dog. God's Country reminds us at times of the excellent film saga John Wick, especially when Sandra's dog is killed, her house burned down and she is ready to take revenge and start her punitive crusade against those men who do not respect nature or her desired tranquility.

The director Julian Higgins seems to love the novel Winter's light by James Lee Burke because after adapting it as a short film in 2015 he not only signs here a new adaptation but also transforms his short into a feature film and manages to keep all the strength of this novel. Certainly he makes some changes, including replacing the main character a white man in his sixties by an African-American woman in her forties, in order to better mark the contrast between the main character and the local population. The film can thus address male aggression and the place of women in our society and the difficulties they may face as Sandra in their merit.

God's Country shows once again the richness of the American independent cinema which can allow some directors, writers and actors to approach deeper themes without worrying about the number obtained at the box office. Certainly this film will lack visibility but those who will have the chance to discover it will spend a good moment of cinema and will see that Thandiwe Newton is a great actress as much at ease in a blockbuster as in a more intimist film as here.

God's Country
Directed by Julian Higgins
Written by Julian Higgins, Shaye Ogbonna
Based on "Winter's Light" by James Lee Burke
Produced by Julian Higgins, Miranda Bailey, Halee Bernard, Amanda Marshall
Starring Thandiwe Newton, Jeremy Bobb, Joris Jarsky, Jefferson White, Kai Lennox, Tanaya Beatty
Cinematography : Andrew Wheeler
Edited by Justin LaForge
Music by DeAndre James Allen-Toole
Production companies : Cold Iron Pictures, The Film Arcade
Distributed by IFC Films (United States)
Release dates : January 23, 2022 (Sundance), September 16, 2022 (United States)
Running time : 102 minutes

Seen on September 6, 2022 at the Deauville International Center

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