Winter in the Blood (self-released, NR)

film winter-in-the-blood_75Rene Haynes’s great cast gives the film much-needed charisma; the beautiful panoramas of northern Montana give it even more depth.




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Adapting James Welch’s 1974 bestselling novel, twins Alex and Andrew Smith bring their second feature (after 2002’s The Slaughter Rule, starring Ryan Gosling and Amy Adams) and take it to the beautiful, vast lands of northern Montana. Following the struggle of a Barefoot Indian and alcoholic, Virgil First Raise (Chaske Spencer, Twilight), we search for missing answers as well as…well, just the purpose in life.

Waking up in a roadside ditch after a tough night out drinking, obviously unhappy and emotionally numb, hungover Virgil stumbles home to find that his wife Agnes has left him, stealing his beloved rifle and electric razor in the process (to sell for booze.) Despite his family’s objections, he sets out after her (or the gun) on an intriguing journey of self-discovery full of various questionable twists and turns, sexual adventures, and hallucinations. On this journey, he meets the mysterious Airplane Man (David Morse), who also might or might not be a simple creation of his own imagination.

Rene Haynes’s great cast (like Spencer’s perfect fit for the Native American protagonist, with his sluggish walk and drained eyes) gives the film much-needed charisma; the beautiful panoramas of northern Montana (shot by Paula Huidobro) give it even more depth. Of course, the biggest battle Virgil faces is the struggle with his own identity. Haunted by a painful past, he tries to bury his sorrows in sex, alcohol, and general self-pity, remarking, “Being dead isn’t so bad once you get used to it.” As the story unravels, he soon enough realizes that the only way out is to learn to live with the icy ghosts of his past.

Winter in the Blood is no way an easy movie to watch. Not only does it intentionally drag, it also has a lot of very strange moments, confusing flashbacks, and dramatic memories, as well as disturbing hallucinations that are coarsely scattered throughout the whole plot. Jumping back and forth, it’s occasionally very easy to lose track in these odd (sometimes almost random) transitions, making it quite hard to tell illusion from reality. Still, it all seemed to have some sort of meaning in the end: Even though the recurrences could have maybe been fused together in a smoother way, the story was not left with any dead ends. | Lea Vrábelová

Winter in the Blood shows at the Webster Film Series at 7:30 p.m. on July 29. For more information, visit or call 314-968-7487.

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