Shotgun Stories tracks a feud that erupts between two sets of half brothers following the death of their father. Set against the cotton fields and back roads of Southeast Arkansas, these ...
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Shotgun Stories tracks a feud that erupts between two sets of half brothers following the death of their father. Set against the cotton fields and back roads of Southeast Arkansas, these brothers discover the lengths to which each will go to protect their family.Written by
Shotgun Stories, Jeff Nichol's impressive directorial debut, is an intense portrayal of a host of social ills in the Southern US: poverty, lawlessness, broken homes and guns. Set in a town in Arkansas, the film picks up the story of three brothers, all young men, named Son, Kid and Boy. The father of this unfortunate trio abandoned them when they were at a young age and they grew up in the home of a bitter, vindictive mother. Of the three, Son is the least hopeless case in a truly dysfunctional trio, but his relationship with his girlfriend and pre-teenage son is decidedly rocky due to his gambling addiction. The shared rapport between the brothers is one of the few comforts in a bleak situation and it makes the subsequent tragedies all the more painful to watch.
The tragedy begins to unfold when the three brothers learn of the death of their father. When they turn up to the funeral they confront the four brothers that their father raised after he left his first family behind. The unpleasant encounter at the funeral stokes up the resentments on each side and initiates an escalating blood feud. The reprisals become increasingly violent as new weapons are used to settle the scores: words, fists, knives and, lastly, inexorably, guns. The violent clashes are filmed only fleetingly, rather than in voyeuristic close-up detail, but the tragic consequences are felt with sickening force on both sides of the family. It is telling that the police intervene only once during a fight and do so without leaving their car vigilantism is left unchecked. A further tragedy in all of this is that the young child fathered by Son is witness to so much of the violence.
The landscape of the American South is beautifully observed in Shotgun Stories; the fecundity of the cotton fields and the warm glow of golden sun on the fields are contrasted with images of sewage flowing into rivers and lily pads decaying in muddy ponds. The bittersweet soundtrack complements the mixed imagery, using a simple palate of acoustic guitar and cello to considerable effect and playing again and again in your ears long after the credits roll. In the final scenes, the desperately sad and tragic events wind up in a curious ending, neither happy nor sad, but about as heartening a cinematic experience as I have had this year.
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