Barking Water

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Barking Water
LOGGED OUT Whitman and Camp-Horinek find a natural resting spot.

Sterlin Harjo’s road movie doesn’t offer any cloudburst epiphanies about the times or the country we live in; don’t expect hip easy riders to declare that they’ve gone looking for America and haven’t found it anywhere. The duo that’s gunning down the two-lane blacktops of the Southwest is indeed an outlaw couple, but not the glamorous Bonnie-and-Clyde type: Frankie (Whitman) and Irene (Camp-Horinek) are elderly Native Americans with a checkered romantic past. She’s just liberated her terminally ill soulmate from the hospital, and though Frankie and Irene’s quest has an end point—he wants to see his estranged daughter one last time—it’s only geographical in the strictest sense. The real trip is through their tangled history of emotional loose ends.

All road movies chart interior maps as well as exterior ones, but Harjo (Four Sheets to the Wind) puts all of his emphasis on the first part, leading the former lovers down the long and winding path of their past. Amber-tinted flashbacks give viewers peeks at the psychic damage done, yet to the filmmaker’s credit, he only alludes to what happened between them; the actors ably carry the weight of communicating decades of wounding with sideways looks and bitter scowls. An overall lack of drive drops the pacing from languorous to a slow, stalled crawl, but the journey itself isn’t the point here. For once, it’s the destination—forgiveness—that really counts.—David Fear

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