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SHOTGUN STORIES

Director: JEFF NICHOLS

U.S.A • 2007 • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 92 MIN


A MEASURED AND SOBERING MEDITATION ON VIOLENCE AND DISCONTENT, DISTILLED THROUGH A BLOOD FEUD THAT RUPTURES TWO CLANS OF HALF-BROTHERS, JEFF NICHOLS’ SHOTGUN STORIES IS A HIGHLY INTELLIGENT AND ACCOMPLISHED FIRST FEATURE THAT MAKES PALPABLE THE SUFFERING, LOSS AND WANTON DESTRUCTIVENESS OF VENGEANCE.
The story’s set in the American South, in the evocative region near Little Rock, Arkansas. It is an Oedipal story in reverse. The plot tracks the bleak cycle of buried resentments, vengeance and retaliation that engulfs two sets of half brothers violently opposed by their sharply different attitudes about their father. Son Hayes (Michael Shannon) and his two brothers, Boy (Douglas Ligon) and Kid (Barlow Jacobs), abhor their father’s abandonment of the family, his embarrassment and disrespect seen as his refusal to grant his sons proper names. Their barely repressed anger surges at the contested man’s funeral, where Son curses the man’s name, an act that unleashes the fury of the father’s second family, the group of four sons dominated by the hot tempered Mark Hayes (Travis Smith). Perched between Old Testament and Southern gothic, Nichols traffics in a classic theme, exploring how the past is superimposed over the present. He also examines the roots of violence, suggesting how the tendencies of Son and his brothers are grounded in class grievance and their discomfort at the rival family’s privileged standing and greater social mobility. Nichols’ style is spare, poetic and antithetical to the typical forms of screen violence. As a physical production, Shotgun Stories is a marvellously expressive work. The exquisite widescreen cinematography by Adam Stone uses landscape to both sharply establish place and a felicitous internal projection of the characters’ anguish and confusion.—Patrick Z. McGavin/Screen International.

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