A disgraced paleontologist struggling to raise her son is tipped off to a groundbreaking dig site in the Badlands by a recovering meth addict, but his tie to the cartel threatens to bury them both under the weight of their criminal pasts.
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After a loved one falls ill, struggling comedian Emily Martin returns to her college town of Austin, Texas and must come to terms with her past while staying with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend.
"Valley of Bones" is a nail-biting adventure thriller set in the oil-rich Badlands of western North Dakota. Anna, a single mother and paleontologist, and McCoy, a meth-addicted oil worker, form an unlikely bond as they both struggle to make amends for their criminal pasts. Their hopes lay in the form of a monumental T. rex fossil, the discovery potentially worth millions. Anna needs this once-in-a-lifetime find to set both her career and her relationship with her son back on track. McCoy needs the money to pay off his debts to a local cartel boss and to save his own young daughter's life. With their motivations over the bones pulling them in opposite directions, can Anna and McCoy trust one another or will they soon turn into adversaries themselves?
Dan Glaser's Valley of Bones is a compelling cinematic exploration of an interesting hybrid of genres. The kid in you watches wide-eyed at the mystique of paleontology and the "fortune and glory" that comes with uncovering dinosaur bones, while the thrill junkie in you is overcome with intrigue as a man who gets involved with the wrong people has to face the grueling consequences.
The film has guts, both literally and figuratively. The director (Glaser) and lead actors (Molony and Reeser), don't pull any punches and therefore, thrash its audience perfectly through a roller-coaster ride of tension, heart, and unpredictability. Molony gives a stunning and nuanced performance as a desperate-addict-turned-drug-monster, mastering the characterization of a very complicated and sensitive man. Reeser confronts her role with grace as a struggling paleontologist and mother. Her performance was extremely refreshing, largely because this role would usually be given to a male actor. If this is a statement against the unsettling amount of leading men over women in Hollywood culture, then message received and hats off! Both leads were phenomenal.
The team of VOB isn't concerned with adopting any tropes commonly used in cinema. They're creating their own rules, while respectfully staying within the general boundaries of coherent storytelling. In other words, I was constantly at the edge of my seat.
Filmmakers seldom take the risk of brewing a mixing pot of conflicting genres because of their fear of having the end product come out half-baked. Thankfully, this is not the case for the VOB team. They tackled an unconventional concept and presented it fearlessly to a body of modern audiences who are usually accustomed to watered down, fluffy content produced by large Hollywood studios. The film can be ruthless and unforgiving, and I love love love that. I was frankly unprepared to be whipping around in my seat, and as an avid film goer, I can't think of anything I'd want more from a film. It is one of the small handful of films that I reflect on as an experience rather than a viewing. The VOB team is successfully paving the way for incoming filmmakers who want to make something new and different.
Valley of Bones explores the dangers of running away from your problems, as well as a realization that sometimes the most valuable thing to uncover isn't what's buried among the bones, but rather, the importance of family. It is impeccably shot in the hauntingly beautiful Badlands, directed with tremendous care, and acted with a big, unflinching heart. It deserves everyone's eyes.
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