Sign up for the Film Comment Letter today to get original film writing delivered to your inbox every week! >>

Short Take: Strange Weather

(Katherine Dieckmann, USA, Brainstorm Media, Opens July 28)

In her fourth feature, Katherine Dieckmann taps into an understated energy coursing through everyday objects: the unexpected angle of sunlight slanting through a trellis, or a lonely light bulb illuminating a row of vacant chairs. Sensitive to such auras, Darcy Baylor (Holly Hunter) lets intuition guide her actions throughout Strange Weather, a story of grief couched in a road movie. Seven years after her son committed suicide, Darcy deduces that one of his business school classmates stole his thesis concept—a family-style hot dog joint—and turned it into a franchise, even passing off the attached personal history as his own. Darcy, seeking poetic justice and a tangible foothold amid her sadness, resolves to drive from Georgia to Louisiana to confront him in person.

The film that follows leans on contrived setups, further weakened by the literal-minded deployment of folk musician Sharon Van Etten’s score at key turning points. But Hunter and Carrie Coon, as Darcy’s realist foil, enliven the film with psychological nuance. During their multi-state drive, Darcy admits uncertainty about her desired outcome and resolves to rely on her instincts during her meeting. Her interior journey brings her to consider the difference between closure and the possibility of a path forward.

Dieckmann’s visual attention to tactile details emphasizes their preciousness in the shadow of loss—she swoops her camera downward to spy Darcy affectionately grazing her dog’s back with one foot, then the other. In turn, Darcy’s embrace of her ex-fiancé in the closing shot hints at a potential future.