2019, NR, 86 min. Directed by Emma Tammi. Starring Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Miles Anderson, Dylan McTee, Ashley Zukerman.
REVIEWED By Jenny Nulf, Fri., April 5, 2019
When European settlers made their way from the bustling cities to the Great Plains, they didn’t quite know what waited for them out in the wide-open grasslands. In Emma Tammi’s narrative directorial debut The Wind, she strives to piece together an account of two women, Lizzy (Gerard) and Emma (Telles), trying to survive the unfamiliar harsh environment where ancient demons lurk in the shadows, waiting to sink their teeth into their fragile psyches.
But it’s not as steeped in folklore as the movie leads on. Most of the film trails Lizzy’s descent into madness. Time jumps inconsistently, from when Lizzy was once pregnant herself to her relationship with her new neighbor. The two get along well enough at first, even though Emma’s spoiled city mindset is drastically different than Lizzy’s stern work ethic. She has learned to tolerate living in the prairie’s indifferent and harsh environment, and has long since given up on the comforts of religion.
Where Lizzy is practical, Emma is a dreamer, and in their time spent together Emma often wistfully rattles on about Lizzy’s husband, Isaac (Zukerman). Thus, once Emma is pregnant the women’s camaraderie stiffens like a corpse and gradually Lizzy begins to resent her naive neighbor. The nonlinear narrative seeks to amplify this tension, and without a baby in the present day it’s clear that something went wrong with Lizzy’s aforementioned pregnancy. Perhaps the “Demons of the Prairie” that haunt Emma’s thoughts are to be blamed?
Tammi’s inability to balance the story’s tone is the film’s clearest downfall. Most of The Wind plays out as a psychological thriller, but there are moments of pure horror that bring the drama to a halt. Inconsistent jump scares feel entirely out of place, and rather than evoking fear they drag the film down, mucking it up with trite horror cliches.
Gerard attempts to be the glue that holds The Wind together. In the scenes where she is by herself, she gives it her all and knows when to ramp up the crazy and when to tone it down so Lizzy remains sympathetic. At her best, she confidently strides around with her gun at the ready, but at her worst, she babbles in German, eyes glazed over staring out at nothing in particular. While it remains obvious (and sometimes tedious) what road Tammi and writer Teresa Sutherland are traveling down with The Wind, Gerard remains a strong, harrowing presence.