16mm, 60 min., 1999 (WP)
Based on stories from Gurney Norman's book, Kinfolks, this touching rural road triptych visits three crossroads in the life of Wilgus Collier (Johnson), a young man coming of age in three different vehicles in Eastern Kentucky in the 1960s. The first installment, "Fat Monroe," features the timeless and perfectly cast Ned Beatty as the leg-pulling, tall-tale-spinning driver who gives the nine-year-old Wilgus a ride home from the afternoon matinee in his old rust-bucket Chevy pickup. The teasing of the ornery old man hits a nerve in the young boy, whose loyalty and love for his family are established early on. In the second story, Wilgus takes a "Night Ride" with his uncle in his cherry-red Chevy sedan, and their raucous journey fills in a little more of the backstory of the now-enaged Wilgus. Uncle Delmer (Taylor) mined coal with his brother, the boy's now-deceased father, and the nephew learns a lot about his daddy, his daddy's brother, and himself on the ride. The third and last story finds the collegiate Wilgus (Berry) buzzing around his small hometown in a VW bug. In "Maxine," a 37-year-old woman (Mullins) has reluctantly left her young pregnant daughter in the hands of a man she knows will do her wrong. Wilgus visits this woman, who is an old family friend, the night before his journey to California. In both this episode and the one before it, the main characters mourn the loss of a loved one's potential as a way to examine the loss of their own. In each of their lives, Wilgus presents hope and promise for the future. Beautifully shot, scored, and acted, The Wilgus Stories, by UT documentary film instructor Andrew Garrison, captures those delicious little junctions in life when our hearts take us any place other than where we are.
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