I thought I would hate this movie because I am very much a Speculative Fiction type of person. You give me a horror, scifi, or fantasy movie, I’m usually all in; especially, if it is an interesting cultural story like, The Offering which is a horror movie about a demonic entity haunting Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community, or Candyman (2021) which is an even more socially conscious continuation of Candyman (1992)-- I am very much into presenting cultural diversity and non-standard Western ideology and belief in very fantastical settings. Montana Story is not that!
Montana Story has is very much a quiet family drama with a Western setting. The main cast is pretty diverse, and wider social issues do come up, however, the movie is not about that. Most of the social issues that are in the movie are very much interpersonal between the main cast. The movie mostly deals with love, care, grief, and fidelity/loyalty; and of course, trauma! You can't have a drama without a little trauma. So, there is definitely no spaceships, lasers, or supernatural eldritch horrors happening! So, why did I like it? Scratch that, why did I even watch it?
I love the actor Owen Teague! Apparently, so does Stephen King because every recent Stephen King adaptation I've seen on streaming seems to star this young man-- The Stand (2020), It: Chapter 1 & 2, and Cell (2016). His whole vibe, and the projects he chooses to do, make me nostalgia trip through various parts of my high school experience watching movies at home...alone...while snuggled and covered with tea and snacks. Listen, my quarantine game was on lock before it was necessary. Anyway, I also saw him on a now canceled and impossible to find tv show from a company apparently named Mordor Over the Mountain of Hubris and Bad Omen, and I really liked the chick lit vibe of it all.
So, Montana Story begins with two siblings, Cal and Erin, who have not spoken in seven years, coming back to their childhood home to help with their comatose father's affairs while he is on life support. We know from the outset that something major has happened tear these siblings apart because there is clearly unspoken resentment and anguish between the two. It is also very apparent from the outset that Cal and Erin had a close bond at some point in the past due to the ever present sense of grief they both have when around each other. One gets the sense that whatever happened was bad enough that they stopped talking, and that Erin was the one who said, "I'm out of here and never coming back!"
In the movie, the yearning on both sides for a connection is ever present, but more so from Cal. He is definitely a little brother looking for his big sister back. However, neither appears to know what to say to the other. Erin is cold and detached, and always seems like there is a yell or a bone-deep scream of rage and anguish coming. Cal looks like he is always two steps away from tears, weariness, and shame. Both are visibly in emotional pain and distress, and their father is the cause of it. The movie made me feel like I was witnessing the seven stages of grief; not necessarily for the father, but for each other and the lives they could have lived if they had stayed in community with one another.
The issues of blame, shame, family loyalty, and care are constant themes. Erin has the right to be angry, but does she have the right person to be angry at? Cal feels extreme guilt, shame, and cowardice, but for what? And, is it deserved?
Montana Story is not a long film but it does linger. It reflects many family stories about shared trauma, love, and grief. The young actors really played their parts well, and I genuinely felt the connection between Teague and Richardson as estranged siblings. The only problem I have with this film is that it has messed up my streaming algorithm!