Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018) Poster

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A beautifully shot but unfocused documentary
eddie_baggins9 October 2019
It would be fair to describe Alabama based filmmaker/teacher RaMell Ross's Oscar nominated documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening as an dreamlike experience.

Feeling absolutely cut from the same cloth as some of Terrence Malick's most memorable and eye capturing tapestry's, Hale County chooses to ignore any type of typical narrative or documentary structure as Ross follows a collection of real life characters across a long standing period of time, as Ross shines a light on modern day lives of black American's in the famous American state.

No doubt inspired by Malick's visionary filmmaking techniques and golden age filmmakers James Agee and Walker Evans, who shot footage of the area in the 1930's to document the depression and poverty that existed in the community, Ross embedded himself with the local Hale County residents and decides too not ask the hard questions of the people he meets or the issues he shines a light on but instead allows his imagery and camera to do the talking.

If there is a slight narrative driver of the film it's in the documentation of school students Quincy Bryant and Daniel Collins, but these two figures are really just passengers in Ross's journey as their lives change and evolve before our very eyes but with very little thorough or deep analysis this style has a detrimental emotional effect on viewers as we are never allowed to dive into their minds or lives completely as Ross keeps us at arm's length throughout.

It's an unfortunate aspect of the film, as Hale County feels entirely like an art-house experiment, not so much an informative or constructive experience, even if the fly on the wall like aspect of proceedings allows us to catch raw and intimate glimpses into the people and the land that make Hale County the place it is today.

There are beautiful moments scattered across Hale County's run-time such as a an early morning sunrise across a dew covered paddock or a star strewn nightscape shot through the quiet surrounds of a local basketball court but all the fine moments captured forever by Ross can't compensate for the lack of a hook to keep us emotionally present in the film, for as it stands we are but willing passengers up for a unique look at a time and place filled with love, loss and future hope.

Final Say -

Some stunning shots and intimately captured moments help make Hale County This Morning, This Evening an eminently watchable documentary but its dearth of a real story or characters we can get to know make it a pleasing but forgettable experience.

3 furniture removalists out of 5

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Not My Cup of Tea
larrys319 June 2019
I saw that this documentary received very high praise from pro critics, but it's not my cup of tea. From what I read, the young director RaMell Ross , making his feature debut, shot 1300 hours of footage over 5 years and was looking more in this presentation to be poetic and lyrical rather than offer a cohesive storyline.

As Ross depicts day-to-day life in a small predominately African-American town in Alabama, there are certainly some striking images here One segment of the movie is just completely sad and shocking. But the film was just too disjointed and fragmented to appeal to me on the whole.
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A mixed result
proud_luddite11 March 2019
As the title implies, days in the lives of the residents of Hale County, Alabama are chronicled in this documentary. Most of the residents are poor and black.

Director RaMell Ross has chosen a cinema-vérité or fly-on-the-wall approach which works often though not always. It works very well on scenes involving small children including the story of a family with twin babies. Sadly, many scenes linger too long and this film has less effect than a similar documentary also released in 2018: "Minding the Gap". The other film dug deeper in covering similar situations including the struggles of economic hardship for those already disadvantaged.

The pacing of "Hale County...." could have been improved though its laid-back approach can be credited for creating a peaceful mood.
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This Is Not Really A Documentary. It's More Of A Series Of Video Blogs.
J_Batek_II9 July 2019
This documentary plays like a high school sociology project, made with an iPhone. I question what the subject was supposed to be - in other words, there seems to be little consistency throughout this series of video testimonials. I love documentaries - this is not a documentary. Skip this one.

RealReview Posting Documentary Scoring Criteria:

Sources/Footage - 1/1; Narrative/'Voice' or Tone - 0/1; Directing - 1/1; Story - 0/1; Production Value - 1/1;

RealReview Base Score: 3

Modifiers (+ or -): Cinematography: +0.5 (Some great shots of the environment, which have nothing to do with the subject of the documentary);

Believability/Consistency: -1 (there is no real point to most of the footage, or this documentary);

Editing-Too Long: -1;

Total RealReview Rating: 1.5 (rounded up to 2 for IMDB)
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More than words
ernestsavesxmas12 December 2019
This is the very definition of a "fly-on-the-wall/slice of life" doc. It's probably not your walls or your pizza, though. It feels like photography come to life. It is a pure artistic statement in that arena, no question. Whether or not these pictures are also telling a compelling story isn't quite as clear. Five minutes of a toddler going back and forth don't make sense until you think about it in the context of what happens to that toddler's infant sibling later on. Intermittently, we are interrupted by black title cards with white text, the most striking of which reads: "What happens when all the cotton is picked?" That this isn't so much of a question, perhaps, is maybe what the story is all about. In the 1990 power ballad by Extreme, "More Than Words," Gary Cherone sings, "More than words is all you have to do to make it real." You don't need to speak to tell a story. You don't have to do anything at all. As Steven Tyler of Aerosmith once sand, "Just Press Play" (on the camera).
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"Samsara" for the American South
horsebeaverfoxman31 January 2019
With documentaries, we are used to being explicitly told the narrative. We are used to linear storytelling. We are used to talking heads, some witty banter with the filmmakers, an occasional irreverent interviewee, and some title cards at the end to explain what happens to everyone after the project has finished. With "Hale County This Morning, This Evening," not only are these items nonexistent; there's barely any context for the film we're left with.

The only context we're given is delivered quickly, right up top, explaining that RaMell Ross, the director, began the project in 2009 as he was tracking the local basketball team. There's a considerable focus on these teens in the final cut of the film, but there's much, much more, too.

There's Daniel, the basketball star who dreams of getting his family out of poverty through attending Selma University. There's Boosie, caring for her child with two more on the way. There's Quincy, Boosie's husband, whom we first meet crying as he has his nose pierced. And there's, of course, Quincy and Boosie's kid, a hyperactive youngster who adores the camera.

Through each of these characters and a handful of peripheral personalities, "Hale County" constructs a dreamcatcher of moments -- I hesitate to call them stories, given how loosely the film treats them, so "moments" is more appropriate. But in those moments, the African-American, low-income world of Hale County breathes deeply, forcefully. A police officer stops a car, and a deer steps out, trepidatiously, onto the road to get a better view. Its breath comes out in billows of condensation. At another point in the film, a young man stands with his father as a thunderstorm crackles over the horizon. The wind tugs at their clothes and threatens to pull them away.

Beyond these standout moments, aided by Ross' divine cinematography and precise editing, the majority of the film is told through the perspective of children. The best shot in the film sees a plane gushing a smoke trail as it falter in mid-air and falls, dramatically, plumes running behind it. As it falls, in one continuous shot, we find ourselves staring at Quincy and Boosie's child, crying, so close to the camera that you can see the tears sparkle.

For narrative lovers, "Hale County" will understandably disappoint. It fires on the levels that "Samsara" and "Baraka" do -- this is a tonal piece more than a narrative one. To this end, however, the sound recording leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the flourishes work, like leaving in a rough, barely audible background conversation between the filmmaker and a chatty subject. But most of the film features poor recording, and much of it with unmic-ed subjects. At a certain point, I stopped trying to understand what people were saying and just watched for the visuals and the music.

If you go with the film and let it take you on its winding, existential journey, "Hale County" travels the breadth of the human experience, from a blissful two-plus-minute shot of an infant running to and fro across the room like an excited puppy to a solemn view of smoke from a burning tire, cascading over trees as it reaches toward the sky.

Some parts of "Hale County" hit me harder than "Won't You Be My Neighbor," another, more widely seen doc from this year. In those scenes and in the more quiet, reflective moments, the movie calls to mind that trope about the "long night of the soul." "Hale County" isn't THAT dramatic, but its humanism and its experimental storytelling capture, hauntingly and beautifully, the morning and evening of the soul.
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Intensely Boring
johnkuhnlein-660537 May 2021
If you follow your neighbors around for 24 hours you will discover that they are mostly very boring people. That's what we have here. This barely qualifies as a documentary. Unless you like seeing a toddler running around in circles for four minutes, you're not likely to enjoy this. A waste of time for everyone involved.
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Needed better focus on who to film
F4LS3G0D3 August 2019
There wasn't a lot of focus on the people on this film. It was hard to grab your attention when there was just filming of people for really short periods. I think if it was just focused on one or two people throughout their lives then you would be able to connect and be an eye opener to how they live their daily lives but this movie only showed small glimpses and most of them weren't entertaining nor important and emphasis on entertaining. Needs more entertainment in this film. For example the basketball player who wants to go pro or get into a better college. That sounds interesting right? but in this film you didn't really see his life, heck you didn't even see him play a game. If i'm to invest in a character can't i at least see him play a game a couple seconds or something? You could say that with all the people in this film. you'll only see a flash in this film and that flash isn't enough to learn who they are as people. Which is what i think this film was going for to show the lives of people in Hale County. So i think on that front this film failed but if he remade it and went more in depth than i think this film would be really good.
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Lovely poetic flowing vignettes of life, with clear influences
apprenticepoet11 February 2019
This film, with its free-form flowing scenes of life in Hale County has been praised to the skies by various critics, and in many ways deserves it. That said, sadly all of them have missed its indebtedness to 'A Shimmer of Possibility', a very influential 12 volume photographic work/ book released by Paul Graham in 2008. It pioneered the flowing visual poetics, into a stuttering non-narrative vision of everyday life, finding beauty and meaning in the most ordinary of situations. There are extended film -like sequences of images at the core of this work, that remind me of 'Hale County', especially one of a young African American couple playing basketball in the twilight.

Mr Ross, clearly knows this work - he is an art-photographer and teacher himself - and Mr Graham's work was highly praised, and even given a solo show at MoMA, NYC. RaMell Ross has absorbed the lessons from this work, and transferred them to his film-making, with great skill. The success is his, and I don't wish to take away from it, but it is important to acknowledge a debt and influence, when it is due.
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AdityaLovemovies23 June 2019
Undeniably well made, this documentary focuses on the residents of this small town and shows their lives. However, i did eventually lose interest in it as there really isnt much forward momentum in the storytelling.
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Felt like an art piece you'd pass in an exhibition
s-jezz23 July 2019
This film is beautifully shot, and there are some stunning images in it, but I would not call it a documentary. There is barely a noticeable narrative and for me a documentary has to have a narrative otherwise you could call Andy Warhol's Empire a documentary. It's the kind of film you could imagine passing in a gallery exhibition, watching for five minutes, and walking on. In that respect I can't really recommend it but I thought a 6/10 was fair as it succeeds in what it sets out to do and my lack of enjoyment of it was based partially on expectations.
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One of the most powerful documentaries of a generation.
cwells-1046815 February 2019
Prepare to be profoundly moved, to be brought through every imaginable human emotion... to question many of the assumptions you may hold. This film brings such a unique perspective and addresses many issues critical to our country in a nuanced and beautiful way.
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