Liz Whittemore returns from THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY at SXSW with a report
An unexpected invitation launches a grieving young woman on a solitary road trip through the American Midwest as she struggles to reconcile the losses of her past with the dreams of her future.
THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY is a snapshot of all the people we pass on a journey; the waitress, the motel manager, or the convenience store clerk. It’s a picture of America. The sound editing is a flurry of sounds from a car radio, local and national news reports, music, and whatever Tanna stumbles upon on her way.
Lily Gladstone‘s ability to captivate an audience is something I first noticed in Certain Women. There’s an effortless, tangible quality about her presence that invites the audience. As Tanna, she allows us to join her anxiety and reflective thoughts. It’s a beautiful turn. Ancestral pull, traveling alone as a woman, and her place in the world all swirl around Gladstone, and the audience sits on her shoulder the entire ride.
A meditation on grief, familial roots, and perhaps unresolved trauma? From Gladstone’s raw state to the striking cinematography, the final moments are like a cathartic breath. THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY taps into the universal internal struggle to find our place in the world. The film shines in its humanity. After years of being bombarded with negative energy from politics, the environmental crisis, the pandemic, nationalism, war, social media, and everything in between, THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY gives us permission to grieve the life we thought we’d live and allows us to take a collective breath. SXSW 22 audiences will be talking about this film all year.
To see more of Liz's reports from the road, or at least Reel News Daily go here.