Mad with grief after the death of his Kiowa wife, Talbot awaits death under a tree with her body beside him. She begins to haunt him because he won't burn her. His father, who bought him the wife, thinks her sister might reason with him.
Dealing with nuclear testing and its long-lasting deadly effects, the story portrays Boy, a young widower living in the desert on a nuclear testing site. Living as a hermit, he waits for ... See full summary »
It's 1873, Indian Territory. Talbot Roe is going mad with grief over losing his Indian wife, Awbonnie. In an effort to save him, his father, Prescott Roe, seeks to purchase the dead wife's sister, Velada, from the same traveling carnival he acquired Awbonnie. The girls' father, carnival master Eamon McCree, is willing to do business, but her step-brother, Reeves, protests, putting an end to the negotiation. Desperate, Prescott kidnaps Velada and promises her the means to be rid of her father in return for comforting Talbot out of his obsession. In Talbot's madness, he guards his wife's corpse, preventing her from passing to the beyond. As a result, Awbonnie's ghost begins haunting and cursing everyone involved in the transaction of selling her as a wife. Meanwhile, Reeves and Eamon search the prairie for Velada. Drunken Eamon several times wants to turn back and leave his daughter to her own devices, but Reeves refuses. At the site of a hunting party of Indians, Eamon panics and loses...Written by
River Phoenix was a part of our 2003 All Soul's remembrances, and I'm shocked to find that a decade after his death, he is practically forgotten. Video clerks stared blankly at the mention of his name. (National video store clerks!! Two different chains!) I only located a few of his ensemble films at the major video rental outlets. "Silent Tongue" was among the meager offerings at a grocery store. Others I can't find at all.
If "The Thing Called Love" is your only experience of the "adult" River Phoenix, you might not recognize him in "Silent Tongue". He hardly looks the same. This is the film which finally gave us "River Phoenix; the man", and in it, he plays Richard Harris' addle pated son. Sadly his screen time was all too brief. Perhaps he knew his soul was about to be called home, for he finally broke through all the artifice and became the consummate actor we so often heard he was supposed to be, but seldom saw.
The film is compelling most often when River is on the screen. Gone is the boyish actions which hardly fit his far-seeing eyes. Gone is the dual self-importance and shyness which often felt false. Here we see a man truly possessed and lost; damned by his own makings. Burdened with something we can't quite understand. It rings of truth. Ugly and brutal, but truth nonetheless, as we were to learn that Halloween morning in 1993.
Richard Harris is also excellent as Prescott Roe. His love for his addled son is evident, and the character is both touching and pathetic in trying to protect him. Harris always managed to elevate his fellow actors by a rung or two, but there is nothing he could do to elevate those parts he did not appear in. I find it interesting that he twice played a father to a Phoenix boy son. Father to two wounded men, if only in the land of make-believe. There is a certain symmetry to it. I wonder how the real man thought about it.
The Mulroney part is unconvincing for the most part, but it is not the actor's fault. Sheila Tousey is interesting as the ghost and Jeri Arredondo is lovely to look at. I wish both ladies appeared in more films. The scene with Tantoo Cardinal is a waste of her talent and makes little sense to the whole. Since when did a rapist rear their own products to adulthood?
Watch the film to see River Phoenix as a man and to finally see his promise fulfilled. It would have been nice if the vehicle were a better one. Although it is flawed, it is worth the watch, if only to get a glimpse of what he would have brought to "Interview with a Vampire" and other roles. With the successes enjoyed by Keanu and Depp so much in evidence, it is hard not to be a little bit bitter, and bemoan the whys. Forgiveness is harder to come by, though the anger has started to dim. This film can go a long way to explain it all to those who are too young to remember who River Phoenix was.
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