(director/writer: Tom Putnam; screenwriter: based on the book Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the DarkDivide by Robert N. Pyle; cinematographer: Sean Bagley;  editors: Sam Hook/Tom Putnam; music: The Avert Brothers; cast:  David Cross (Robert Pyle), Debra Messing (Thea Pyle), Cameron Esposito (Monty), Gary Farmer (Densmore), Patterson Hood (Joe), David Koechner (Shayne), Kimberly Guerrero (Teresa), Ayanna Berkshire (Mrs. Gordon), Peyton Dilweg (Maggie), Dyami Thomas (Billy), Olivia Ritchie (Amie), Brian Adrian Koch (Joey); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Aaron Boyd, Ryan Frost, Tom Putnam, Jory Weitz, David Cross; Public House Films 2020)

The scenery is out of this world beautiful.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The documentary filmmaker from Lake Oswego, Oregon, Tom Putnam (“Static”/”Red White Black & Blue”), with a great feel for telling nature stories, is writer-director of this true story conservationist film. It’s about the quiet, lovable, nature lover Robert Pyle (David Cross), a lepidopterist (studies butterflies & moths) and his exploration of a vast area in the Pacific Northwest known as the Dark Divide. It’s based on his book Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide. It chronicles his 1995 trek through Washington’s mountainous Gifford Pinchot National Forest, one of America’s largest undeveloped wildlife areas, as the nature writer hiked through the rough region in search of Bigfoot. But this initial purpose only becomes an amusingly minor part of the story–one largely ignored.

We’re told that Pyle’s supportive wife Thea (Debra Messing) encouraged this trek but died from ovarian cancer, as she’s seen
via flashbacks. The grief-stricken Pyle supposedly goes on the adventure after her death. But in reality his wife died eighteen years later.

The naturalist (but inexperienced backpacker) has the following adventures: while meeting on the trail a logger crew taking down trees, the angry loggers show their true feelings to his green beliefs by giving him a thrashing; Pyle nearly falling off a cliff chasing a rare butterfly;
an owl is gashing his scalp while sitting on top of his head;  entertaining a few close brushes with bears and getting lost in an underground lava cave wearing just his boots and underpants.

The scenery is out of this world beautiful. The story is emotionally moving and funny at times. The journey seems like a spiritual one, whereas the journey is the thing. It might surprise viewers how enjoyable and meaningful is the simple and bloodless adventure tale. The music by one of my favorite authentic folk groups, The Avert Brothers, from North Carolina, made my movie experience even more enriched.

The Dark Divide

REVIEWED ON 10/2/2020  GRADE:  A-