Barking Water -- Film Review

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An elegiac road movie depicting the final journey undertaken by an elderly couple, "Barking Water" features an atmosphere of poignant gravity that goes a long way towards overcoming its narrative and thematic thinness. Previously showcased at New Directors/New Films and currently receiving a weeklong run at the Museum of Modern Art, Sterlin Harjo's film is one of the all too rare theatrical features dealing with the Native American experience.

The two characters at the story's center are Frankie (Richard Ray Whitman), terminally ill from cancer, and his ex, Irene (Casey Camp-Horinek), who he left years earlier. As we eventually discover, their relationship did not end happily; after Frankie left her, she falsely accused him of physical abuse and he was severely beaten by her brothers as revenge.

But her feelings for him still remain, so she has agreed to drive him across Oklahoma so that he can see his estranged daughter, and the grandchild he has never met, before he dies.

Along the way, they come across a selection of eccentric characters, ranging from relatives to hitchhikers to an initially hostile redneck who softens up enough to share some marijuana with them.

Its narrative episodic and its tone highly lyrical, "Barking Water" is most notable for its evocative photography of the bleak Oklahoma landscapes and for the memorable turns by its two leads, who bring a haunting, world-weary gravitas to their performances that feels utterly authentic.

Opened May 12 (Cinema Purgatorio, Lorber Films)
Production: Indion Entertainment Group
Cast: Richard Ray Whitman, Casey Camp-Horinek
Director/screenwriter: Sterlin Harjo's

Producers: Chad Burris, Jack Clark, Joel Hulett, Michael Price
Director of photography: Frederick Schroeder
Editor: David Michael Maurer
Music: Ryan Beveridge
Not rated, 80 min.
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