Down in the Valley

  • Film
  • Drama
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When this beguiling spin on ‘The Night of the Hunter’ and other tales of dangerous strangers inveigling their way into a family’s life first screened at Cannes last year, it drew comparisons with ‘The King’ (released here last week), another US indie film at the festival that explored a similar dynamic. This is a slightly rougher, but ultimately more pleasing affair, marked by two lead performances that make sense of an increasingly wild riff on the familiar figure of the unknown cowboy who rides into town and upsets the status quo.

Edward Norton plays Harlan, a rootless and charming gas-station attendant in the San Fernando Valley who, one summer’s morning, suddenly quits his job and jumps into the car of feisty teenager Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood) and her friends, who’ve pulled in on the way to the beach. It’s a rash, instinctive act that should ring alarm bells for Tobe. Instead, it plucks her heartstrings and marks the beginning of a passionate, two-fingers-up-to-everyone-else love affair that rightly frightens her father Wade (David Morse). Perhaps inevitably, Harlan proves more unhinged than even his initial impetuousness suggests, seizing his lover and heading to the hills – well, the Californian suburbs – on horseback. It’s the spark between Norton and Wood that succeeds in masking the absurdity of Harlan trotting past faceless new housing developments on a trusty steed. Strange but compelling.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday May 26 2006
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: David Jacobson
Cast: Edward Norton
Evan Rachel Wood
David Morse
Bruce Dern
Rory Culkin
John Diehl
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