A Dim Valley is a wonderfully dreamy exploration in what can only be described as a slow mythic folk drama. A film with many more layers than you would imagine. That’s boosted by the final two acts wasting no time in its intentions.
Professor Clarence (Robert Longstreet) and his two disinterested stoner graduate students Albert (Whitmer Thomas and Ian (Zach Weintraub) are up in the forests researching butterflies and plant life over the summer. Ian and Albert come across three mysterious backpackers Iris (Rosalie Lowe) Rose (Rachel McKeon) and Reed (Feathers Wise). As the days go on our three backpackers slowly begin to reveal their intentions.
While it takes a little while to get going, to the point that you severely begin to dislike Albert for how annoying he is in comparison to our other two researchers. The slow pacing will probably lose some of the audience, but if you can keep with the film and pay attention to what comes up on the screen, the reward when our backpackers arrive rewards you greatly. This is a film that is full of subtext, Brandon Colvin is wise to spread them out and also to not make sure not to hit the audience over the head with what his message is.
There is a fabulous scene when Rose reads Clarence’s tarots while the group watches. After she explains what each card revealed is Clarence begins a monologue about finding fairies in his garden when he was a child. This monologue alone is worth the watch with the expert editing, we feel every word, every pained word from him. Longstreet did knock his character out of the park. He only gets better as the film continues. His arc is an interesting one and is highly emotional, you sense that he is keeping things to himself and when it is revealed you feel so much for him. He has perhaps the most complex character in A Dim Valley. He can carry the film in its important scenes more emotional sequences.
Regarding our nymphs, the air of mystery with them slightly takes you out of it as you are automatically suspicious of them. They are a little transparent in their intentions in wanting to meddle with the men in some form. Iris seemingly having powers that are shown early on to get the nymphs into the cabin. Then our suspicions are heightened even more as the looks and gazes continue throughout. These suspicions mostly come from Reed who almost always has a look of someone plotting a long game.
Her aggressive nature at the start makes you believe that no matter what the dynamic is of the three that she is the leader. Iris and Rose constantly look over to her for confirmation to continue with the apparent preconceived plan. I am not sure if this was to raise a sense of doubt over the innocent intents of our backpackers. Yet it does help to distance the audience from them.
A Dim Valley occasionally gets bogged down by its script and resonates most when characters are given time to think and consider. Depending on what you feel at the start of the film. You will likely get something different from it, this is the openness of the entire piece. There are moments in the first act that we could do without as they do nothing for the characters. Especially Albert who as mentioned struggles to be likeable. If they were removed we would still get a general gist of his character and the dynamic between the three especially with him and Ian.
A slight script issue is Clarence’s arc. While it is a tremendous thought evoking one. It feels a tad separate from the rest of the film. Though this could have been intentional to allow the audience to break away from the built-up sexual tension with our younger cohort.
Cinematographer Cody Duncums photographs the outdoor scenes excellently as once our nymphs appear a dream-like filter covers the frame that we never truly escape from for the rest of the movie. It is a lovely touch and in truth, once in this dreamy weightless world, like our two young grad students. You don’t want to leave it.
What has to be said, however, is how open the film is with the sexuality of A Dim Valleys characters. You sense that our nymphs are here to enjoy the three men. But while they get close to them (almost continually in their underwear or with an overshirt). They are here to allow our male characters to open up about themselves. It is a part of Colvin’s smart writing. That you notice some small details so when we get to the third act, everything connects and slots into place very nicely.
With some excellent performances and cinematography, A Dim Valley is a delicate summer dream that you would never really want to leave. An utterly enchanting film.
For more coverage of Raindance 2020 please check out our reviews below:
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