It’s a hook—an Italian director shooting naturalistically among the cowpies and prayer huddles of rural Texas—that’s potent enough for a third go-around by Roberto Minervini. Stop the Pounding Heart completes his “Texas trilogy,” all three burring the line between fiction and real life, and featuring locals in recurring roles.
Viewers on guard for the sin of condescension will have their expectations dashed. Minervini has clearly earned his performers’ trust, and refrains from editorializing. If anything, his and cinematographer Diego Romero Suarez-Llanos’s HD camera is too in awe of the locals’ quotidian routines and the soggy environs of Waller, Texas. But with a delicate touch, Minervini is able to fashion his material into a quietly compelling narrative.
Sara (Sara Carlson) is one of 12 children in a strict Christian home-schooled family of goat farmers. Her devout mother tells Sara she’ll grow up to do great things, while also emphasizing the glories of submission to male prerogative and ensuring that the girl makes a prenuptial virginity pledge to her father. Out walking with some siblings, she meets Colby (Colby Trichell), awkward with a burgeoning mustache and fond of the crutch phrase “shoot, yeah”; his life is centered on bull-riding. The attraction that develops between these two who have proximity but little else in common is so subtle as to be barely there, but Minervini is confident enough to have it write itself out on Sara’s confused pale face and Colby’s woken-from-slumber body language.