Like life, not every cinematic story is wrapped up with a nice pretty bow by the end. While I certainly appreciate a film that does manage a conclusion that satisfies with feel good symmetry, it’s impossible not to appreciate a story that honestly captures the fact that life just isn’t fair, people sometimes get dealt a terrible hand, and any sort redemption is mostly non existent. In her latest directorial effort GALVESTON, Melanie Laurent definitely doesn’t shy away from showing this aspect of storytelling with a heartbreaking tale of people trying to do the right thing in the shittiest of circumstances.
Roy just got bad news from the doctor, his kingpin boss stole his woman, and some thugs tried to kill him. He’s not having a stellar day so far, and to add to the drama he suddenly finds himself a knight in shining armor to Rocky, a young call girl he saved from said thugs. With no where to go, the pair hit the road together with no destination in mind. When the unlikely duo make a stop in Rocky’s hometown to get some cash owed to her, Roy’s luck takes an even sharper turn when Rocky returns to him with a three year old in tow. From here, they decide to head to the gulf coast to hide out in Galveston, TX. Just when things seem to be looking up for the trio, those shitty circumstances get even shittier and Roy is faced with terribly tough decisions in a desperate situation.
The film is gorgeous and heavy as all get out, but despite the darkness all around it doesn’t come off as completely hopeless. Laurent employs a sparse score with mostly ambient music to capture a rawness that is palpable. She also aptly applies a beautifully polished look to the gritty conditions the characters are in, making even the most dire of situations somehow not so terrible. It the kind of film you can’t take your eyes off even when they are filled with tears.
As always, Ben Foster chews up every scene in which he appears. Between his turn in HELL OR HIGH WATER and this outing as the henchman with a heart of gold, Foster is totally nailing the whole rugged, middle aged redneck with astonishing capability. Though his character’s somewhat icy veneer barely ever cracks, Foster’s subtle performance insinuates a ton more going into under the hardened exterior. Elle Fanning once again completely captivates as the waifish teenager whose current state is sadly a major improvement over what she has already escaped. In one particularly gut wrenching scene, Fanning’s portrayal of consummately down on her luck teen is so real and raw I couldn’t help but to cry right along with her. If Foster is mastering the southern nere do well, Fanning is making an incredible career completely owning the whole wide eyed, pretty naive orphan. She is sincere and heartbreaking and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this amazingly talented young actress.
The film intentionally takes its time, but thankfully never meanders. When the story finally does reach its climax, however, Laurent brings on a solid dose of cringeworthy tension and a pounding score that wonderfully juxtaposes the easy downtrodden tone of the rest of the film. Though, as I mentioned earlier, there really isn’t any resolution to tie things up, a sort of epilogue after the final act definitely rounds out the sad but stunning storyline.
I cannot recommend GALVESTON enough, but be prepared to have your heart ripped out. There’s no word yet on a release for the film, but definitely keep an eye out for this incredible gem.
Until next time,
Aka Annette Kellerman