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Slanted & Enchanted: Fragile Lovers in an Atmospheric Swoon

An indie-rock-soundtracked paean to the lonesome crowded West, director Mark Milgard's promising debut is a refreshingly region-specific entry in a teen-angst subgenre plagued by lazily sketched suburban settings. After two years in juvie following a hit-and-run incident actually committed by his politically aspiring father, rural Idaho teenager Mason (Vincent Kartheiser) reconnects with troubled Danny (Taryn Manning), sparking a fragile romance that will unfold almost entirely outdoors. Milgard's compact storytelling allows ample time for trance-inducing shots of windblown wheat fields that, along with recurring dream fragments and Robb Williamson's ambient score, suggest a mystical view of nature no doubt derived from Terrence Malick. Indeed, atmosphere trumps plot throughout, enabling the movie to survive an unfortunate, if inevitable, final-act turn. Kartheiser's Mason seems almost too Zen from the beginning, rendering the character's putative transformation less dramatic then it might have been, but Manning's vulnerable Danny is affecting and Arliss Howard gives a wonderfully implosive performance in the critical role of Mason's father, finding the perfect note of quiet desperation for a character who could easily have been played as a monster.

 
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