Thanks fauvenoir for this review.
This to be seen by eco-extremists, their sympathizes and their (many) critics alike. Reichhardt did choose a marginal yet well-inspired subject matter for this film. This movie feels like European cinema at its best, for how methodical, realistic and slow-paced it is, and the poor critics it got from parts of the US audiences reflects this. There’s no trace of any sensationalism, or any of the “edgy cool kids doing wild shit” cliché in there. It’s just non-pretentious characters that could be your friends, and end up doing a devastating eco-terrorist attack.
Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning especially did a great job at dragging you into their conflicted characters, whose love for nature is rivaled by a sense of isolation from their ideas being misadapted for the world they live in. Just too bad they got known for other performances.
The second half of the movie is still an enigma to me, as it deals with the aftermath of their action, how each of the characters betray themselves in their own ways, going to the bottom end of their isolation, fanaticism and paranoia, with the protagonist suddenly becoming a monster by committing a gruesome act. Of course the Reichardt isn’t taking their defense, but is mostly letting you interpret the meaning of the outcome. The moral of the story seems to go in the direction of moralizing against eco-radical actions, yet it is actually more of a sociological study on the role of a radical, anticiv eco-militant in a place like today’s North America, and how such a role can become easily self-destructive for those taking up such a crazy fight. At least this is my reading of it.
Female directors are pretty recent in US cinema, and Reichardt has especially had hard times getting her films through (her highest-grossing film got a little over a million $), and she didn’t try to appeal to the Oscars crowd unlike more upscale liberal feminists like, say, Greta Gerwig. She’s got a beautifully analytical and socio-dynamic approach in her films, that’s surely too intellectual for Hollywood yet I found it very stimulating.