.Review: ‘Heartland’

New film by Maura Anderson is more than just OK

Two young women develop a forbidden romance in a small Oklahoma town.

Distributed by the locally based Wolfe Video, Maura Anderson’s sharp, touching Heartland is everything an indie movie ought to be—except for the Reagan-era title, which can’t be helped.

Everything has turned out badly for young Lauren (Velinda Godfrey), a young lesbian artist working out of Oklahoma City’s one-street hipsterville. Her lover died of cancer, she lost her job and she’s been evicted from the house where the two of them lived. She has one good option, to move back into the house where she grew up, in Guthrie, Oklahoma, not too far from the city.

Lauren’s brother Justin (Aaron Leddick), a wine-business executive from Napa, arrives with his petite red-headed girlfriend, Carrie (Laura Spencer), the odd-girl-out among all these rural types. Lauren and Carrie get close… closer than the brother would like, since he’s neglecting Carrie in favor of work launching an Oklahoma winery. These exist; scenes were shot at the Redbud Ridge Winery in the college town of Norman.

The plausibility is heightened by Anderson’s thoughtful direction and the Oklahoma landscapes. This underrated state shows off its fine creeks and hills and skyscapes, and the living here is easy: the two girls ride in the bed of a pickup truck heading down the road, tipsy and kissing. They come to an even better understanding during Carrie’s first tornado alert (the Californian puts on a football helmet, in hopes of protection from falling timbers).

Here’s to a director who knows that a love scene should tell a story about what the characters have been through, and not just be an erotic display for us. And here’s to a director who prefers a well-played, hopeful ending to a forced happy one. What keeps this on the smart side of farce, especially, is Beth Grant as Lauren’s mother, Crystal. This character actress has worked for Richard Kelly and the Coens (No Country for Old Men), and she’s very good at making her eyes go blank when something comes in front of them that she doesn’t want to see. For example: when she finds a pencil drawing her daughter made of herself lying next to her late lover. They used to say soldiers who’d had a really bad time of it possessed “the thousand-yard stare.” This genteel maternal blankness is the thousand-yard stare of the Culture Wars.

UR, 100 Mins.


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