Proof That Even Documentaries Can Be Directionless Twaddle
Title: The Blessing
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1hr & 16mins
* (out of ****)
The subject of The Blessing has some promise: A Navajo reservation has been positioned next to a mountain – a “female mountain” in whose honor the Native Americans who live in its shadow offer up prayers and emotional sacrifices – whose seemingly endless coal supply has been targeted for mining by a corporation. Against this backdrop, the film examines the decision’s effect upon a single family, whose current patriarch has been hired to do work for that very corporation. It is an interesting premise for a documentary, but this is quite decidedly not the film in which to find a proper examination of either side of this coin.
When it comes to the family, the father in question is Lawrence, whose upbringing was marred by a decision to enroll him in a predominantly-white school established to “Americanize” its Native students. He was no fan of that set-up: “I’m Navajo in my blood,” he says, and he’s right. Any hint at an exploration of this idea is forgotten as soon as it is brought up, though. His daughter Caitlin fares a little better in the development department: She is voted homecoming queen over the course of the telling of her part of the story, but her part on the boys’ varsity football team at the high school hints at something about her that she is keeping secret from everyone else.
When it comes to the coal mine, so little is conveyed about the developments of the decision to mine its coal resources that the most illuminating facts come by way of intertitles. Later, Lawrence, while driving a tractor, crashes and damages most of his spine in the process. Directors Hunter Robert Baker and Jordan Fein showcase a lack of understanding shot composition, to the point that every scene taking place at night only utilizes ambient light (of which there isn’t much) and every daytime scene has a visual resolution barely above that of a home video. Formal imprecision is the least of the problems The Blessing has, though.
(Review by Joel Copling)
(Review by Chase Lee)