The first film of the festival this year was very different to last year. A slow burning film noir-ish tale of hate, love and revenge set in a small town where everyone knows everyone. With one of hell of an opening scene and one that surprised me if I'm honest as I really was not expecting it. The story then shifts in another direction that is interesting to see, especially as the two leads, Jon Bernthal and Christopher Abbot, would usually be in the opposite roles.
With obvious comparisons to the modern day made film noirs, mainly by the Coen Brothers (Fargo, Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men) is unavoidable. The film opens with a group of friends playing cards late at night in a bar one of them owns when a stranger arrives and gives them trouble, ending in a bloody shooting. This is the set up for the film, but the story is really about everyone else. Motel owner and former Virgina rodeo champion, Sam, a quiet guy who just so happens to be having an affair with one of the widows of the shooting. Staying at the motel is Elwood, the shooter, a cold blank faced sociopath who gives away a bit of himself to certain people. He becomes fascinated with Sam after he finds out her is Virginia, where he is from too.
In the background of the characters relationships, and odd interest with each other, burns a slow thriller that is hard to settle in to. This isn't a bad thing. Director Jamie M. Dagg, creates a tone that makes you feel uncomfortable yet watchable film, deep soaked in small town mystery, where you never really know what's happening behind your neighbours doors. It's played out brilliantly with a great cast and talented cinematographer, Jessica Lee Gagne who captures the essence of modern day noir. Kudos to the China brothers (Benjamin and Paul) who wrote the script, hope to see more of their stories up on screen too.
If you see or hear of Sweet Virginia coming your way, I'd catch it on the big screen again.