(director: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte; screenwriter: Nicolaas Zwart; cinematographer: Lyle Vincent; editors: Abbi Jutkowitz, Brett M. Reed, Michael Berenbaum; music: Patrick Higgings, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte ; cast: Margot Robbie (Allison Wells), Travis Fimmel (George Evans), Kerry Condon (Olivia Evans), Finn Cole  (Eugene Evans), Garrett Hedlund (Perry Montroy), Darby Camp (Phoebe Evans), Lola Kirk (Phoebe Evans, adult voice), John Baker (Hans Christopher); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Brad Feinstein, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Rian Cahill, Margo Robbie, Josey McNamara, Tom Ackerley; Romulus Entertainment; 2019)

“Atmospheric film that gets bogged down in a naive narration.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 27-year-old director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (“As You Are”) sets his visually pleasing and well-acted film in the 1930s in Texas. The story that follows a familiar trajectory that gives a bittersweet vision of America. It’s smartly written by Nicolaas Zwart. The evocative period crime drama reminds us of such period classics like Days of Heaven and Bonnie and Clyde. Margot Robbie stars as the seductive bank robber on the run, Allison Wells. Finn Cole is Eugene, the innocent young man who is seduced by her.

It opens with a voiceover by Eugene’s half-sister, Phoebe (voice of Lola Kirk as an adult). She recalls the time in 1935 when she was a child (played by Darby Camp) some 20 years ago. It was during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in Texas.

We’re told that the 5-year-old Eugene’s alcoholic father John Baker (Hans Christopher) left his wife, Olivia (Kerry Condon), and him, for the supposedly greener pastures in Mexico, leaving him with a postcard and the hope of finding him in Mexico some day. As a young man Eugene grows up a dreamer and fan of detective magazines, and he idolizes colorful gangsters. Meanwhile mom marries the oppressive deputy sheriff George Evans (Travis Fimmel) and they have a daughter, Phoebe.

When George is a teenager a bank robbery in town results in several killings, and there’s a wanted poster for the bank robber Allison offering for her capture a $10,000 reward. Accidentally Eugene comes across her hiding in his family barn, with a bullet in her leg. He prefers her to the reward and nurses her back to health, even removing the bullet from her leg. When Allision swears to him she didn’t kill anyone, excusing the robbery as a way of getting back at the government and bank for foreclosing on her family farm, Eugene is not sure if he believes her but agrees to hide her on the family farm and then agrees to run away with her to take on her outlaw life.

When on the run, Eugene wonders if she’s using him.

In the hotel shower, Eugene loses his virginity to her and hopes he can escape his doomed fate by reaching the Promised Land.

Joris-Peyrafitte captures the downtrodden life during these desperate times, in this atmospheric film that gets bogged down in a naive narration and gets overcome by melodramatic clichés and simplistic political thoughts to have the power of the classic films cited above. The film’s second half hits some dead spots, as it has the couple on the run from the law. The promising film begins to lose its early luster and its story becomes all too familiar as it reaches its final shoot-out. 

REVIEWED ON 12/30/2019  GRADE: B-  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/