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January 12, 2021

Up Country

up country.jpg

Lucas McNelly - 2021
DPress Productions

Before discussing the film, I need to mention that Lucas McNelly and I are acquainted with each other from our blogging activities over the past decade and a half.

In McNelly's film, three men who appear to be in their late twenties are first seen as passengers in a gray sports utility vehicle. An older man has driven them to an unmarked location near some woods. The four walk through what may be a restricted area, through the woods, past some rail tracks, to a stream. The three men awkwardly make their way while carrying their fishing rods. The guide easily walks through his path easily. When the three get to the stream, they are absorbed in joking with each other that they do not notice the guide silently walking away.

The three men can not really be described as friends. John, who organized the trip has invited Mark, his brother-in-law, and Paul, a tax attorney whom John hopes will provide him with some professional help. They know each other in that one might describe as a business acquaintance. John, Mark and Paul have gone fishing, but with the guide gone, they have become the proverbial fish out of water, trying to find their way back. Even before they find themselves lost, their situation is anticipated by their unease in navigating their way following the guide and the walk to the stream which seems to take an unusually long time.

The film carries with it some similarities to Deliverance, albeit more intimate and stripped down. There are a couple of moments that are uncanny. Parts of the narrative includes ellipses which add to the discomforting conclusion, and ending that may frustrate those who demand full explanations for what has been seen or even not seen.

Certainly I would encourage would-be filmmakers to take a look at Up Country. This is a micro budget film, reportedly $4000.00, almost completely shot in the woods of Maine with the exception of an interior shot in a cabin and some shots inside the gray SUV. The film neither looks nor sounds cheap. There are some nice nature shots of the environment, including shots of a caterpillar and a small frog. McNelly is comfortable with filming an extended static shot of John walking away from the camera, on the bumpy and jagged path, the camera impassively observing him as he walks further away from view. Sometimes the most interesting way to be cinematic is also the simplest.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 12, 2021 07:06 AM