Don't Come Knocking

Wim Wenders’ reunion with Sam Shepard – who this time around is both writer and star – isn’t a patch on ‘Paris, Texas’ (which, for all its virtues, was when Wenders began dealing with emotions too explicitly), let alone that movie’s predecessors. Here, Shepard gives a strictly two-dimensional performance as Howard Spence, an ageing badboy Western star who goes AWOL from a film set, pays a surprise visit to his estranged mother (Eva Marie Saint), and then heads north to Butte, Montana, in search of the son he never knew existed until his mom mentioned it in passing – resulting of course in a encounter with the boy’s own mother (Jessica Lange).

The lack of emotional, psychological, philosophical or dramatic nuance here is hardly surprising, given that the script proceeds inexorably from cliché-packed, through inconsequential, to virtually incoherent. Then there are the characterisations dumped on or executed by the rest of the cast: as Spence’s ex, Lange appears constantly amused by the follies of the man (or is that men?), while Tim Roth is woefully miscast in the supposedly comic role of an agent intent on returning Spence to the set. As the son, meanwhile, Gabriel Mann doesn’t even manage the modest feat of one-dimensionality.

Most of what develops plays like a parody of Wenders’ favoured tropes and motifs (lives wasted, family tensions, the rock ’n’ roll life, the lure of the West), save that it’s not funny – not intentionally, anyway, though some of the clunky dialogue and lapses in narrative logic are certainly laughable. By the time we get to the point where the camera is endlessly circling Shepard sitting on a sofa in the middle of the street, it feels as if he and his director were making things up as they went along.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday April 28 2006
Duration: 122 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Wim Wenders
Screenwriter: Sam Shepard
Cast: Sam Shepard
Jessica Lange
Tim Roth
Gabriel Mann
Sarah Polley
Fairuza Balk
Eva Marie Saint
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