midnight special [film review]

[Second in a series of ekphrastic responses to the films of Jeff Nichols. First.]

Opens on unlikely trio in motel room. Two well-armed men. A young boy sits on floor wearing swimming goggles and industrial earmuffs.

Wide open Texas sky at dawn. A speeding Chevelle. On the run.

Agents descend upon a cult. They want the boy. They need the boy. The boy is gone.

Cut back to the road. Feels like a doomed trip. Headlights off, night goggles on.

‘Shots fired! Officer down!’

‘You did the right thing. He’s more important.’

The ranch in Texas. Feels like Waco and Koresh, but a little farther west and instead a preacher speaking a young boy’s channeled words.

FBI, NSA, doing what they do, asking questions with answers they’ll never understand.

‘Y’all have no clue what you’re dealing with, do you?’

The Chevelle pulls up. An old friend offers shelter. But the man can’t resist. Wants to feel the light flow into his eyes one more time. He’ll pay the price.

Watching the news. The men see what’s coming. What they can’t escape, the fear and fervor burning so close behind the boy.

‘Things with that trooper didn’t need to go down like that. Don’t interfere with me again.’

The gaps, the space unfilled. Undefined connections. Omissions speak it louder, drive it forward.

‘Do you miss it, living on the ranch?’ ‘Yeah, very much.’

Twenty minutes in comes the first bright glimpse…feels like it’s been longer, feels like a rupture.

‘A visible spectrum of light came from his eyes.’

Friday, March 6th, the day of our judgment.

They need the boy. ‘If Alton is with us, we will be saved.’

On the road again. Alton reading comics.

‘What’s kryptonite?’

‘I should have never let you give him those. He’s never seen a comic book in his life.’

‘That’s why he needs them.’

‘He needs to know what’s real.’

‘He looks weaker.’

That gas station. Leaving a wake no one could ever miss. The feds closing in.

The light escapes his eyes. Side of the road. Alton on his knees.

‘We need to take him to a hospital! He’s dying!’

‘No, he will not die! He’s meant for something else.’

They’re coming. Alton sees it in the sky. Off to hide underground.

NSA analyst Sevier figures it out. Knows where they’re going. A convergence rising.

Alton finally sees the dawn. He sees what’s above us. It heals him. He’s learning who he is.

The cult brings their guns and their conviction. Their zealous craving for salvation.

Alton and Sevier. A meeting of the minds. Can the boy’s powers persevere.

Roy is on the edge. ‘The only thing I ever believed in was Alton. And I failed him.’

The final run. An overturned car. A stretch of open marshland.

What’s left of what we need to believe (in).

 

shotgun stories [film review]

[First in a series of ekphrastic responses to the films of Jeff Nichols. Second.]

Acoustic melancholy drenches a rural Southern town. Fishing in a flat green world, water spread out everywhere. Open skies. A slow train passes through downtown. What it’s like to be trapped in a town for life. Yellow light and dogs and decaying industry.

A dead father. A funeral (“I said some things”). Redeemed but not by those left behind.

A walked-out wife. A pair of brothers. Acoustic melancholy. Clouded sky over water. Shirtless males netting fish. The feeling you get inside your chest, like a strangling but in an almost good way. Does beauty go unignored.

“What you doing…”

They set up the window unit on the picnic table to test it out. Run the extension cord out from the house. It works, and they sit there, feeling the cool air on their faces.

“It’s not the gambling. She just wants me to stop screwing around.”

One brother living in a van down by the river.

A young son. A blood feud. Two families, one father. Brother to brother.

“Are we all right?” “Yeah.”

“A lifetime is a long time, just for two people.”

“Your brother’s dead.”

Sorrow will always bring us together. She climbs in bed with him. Is it so often how we try to erase our pain, with new pain…

The pavement is hot. And yet I sit on it and I wait for you. I throw away my cards for you.

“I didn’t know they were there.”

“You raised us to hate those boys. And now it’s come to this.”

Silence.

A tent is something more than a tent after the unchangeable happens.

“Why is this happening?”

Cotton fields, cotton fields. They’re gonna crucify you, in those old cotton fields back home.

“Son’s all I have now. I just want to protect my brother.”

“I’m gonna put an end to it.”

[ominous strings fade to the upward lilt of the guitar]

acoustic melancholy

and the light falls across the porch. and the light falls over what’s left.

there are songs to tell us every way we feel…

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