Sunday, March 10, 2024

Hunting Daze (2023) SXSW 2024

Nina is traveling through the hinterlands. She and her friends run out of gas. When one of her other friends, Kevin, arrives to rescue them, tension causes a fight to break out and Nina is left stranded by her original companions. Truly in the middle of nowhere, Kevin takes Nina back to the hunting lodge with him. She manages to bond with the macho and crazy hunters, passing an initiation test she is considered one of them. All is going along swimmingly until Kevin brings in another stray, a black man he found wandering down the road. All is well until something happens and everyone is sent skidding.

Beautifully made film is for it’s first half a tightly plotted drama. It’s a wonderful look at a bunch of people being crazy in a remote cabin. The comradery is real and you have the feeling that everyone is truly friends. You also see  how Nina becomes one of them. That first half is wonderful.

The problem is that there is a moment after the stranger joins them that the film goes sideways. The film shifts from straight reality into something else. Things become dreamlike and we aren’t really certain what is real and what isn’t. The straight narrative disappears into mystical trips. It’s creepy and unnerving for a while but there came a point where I wasn’t certain it was going anywhere. Honestly the pieces are, like every other bit of the film, fantastic, but they just don’t some together.

That doesn’t make this is a bad film, it just makes what is great film for the better part of an hour an okay one in the end.

The one thing I have to talk about is the performance of Noubi Ndiaye. Giving one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen (no really) he is a force of nature. There is a moment where he stares hurt and broken and not understanding and my soul cracked.  I had to rewatch the sequence a couple of times to see if I could figure out how in the hell he was doing what he was doing. I have no idea other than he managed to call up all the pain in the universe and bleed it out of his soul and on to the screen in a few fleeting moments. It was a moment that pretty much broke me in half. This is one of the finest piece of acting I have ever seen on screen or in person. I can not wait to see what he does next. His performance singlehandedly makes the film worth seeing.

For the bits that work and for Noubi Ndiaye‘s performance HUNTING DAZE is recommended

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