Barking Water's Hardly Cheerful Native America
Sprung out the hospital by his ex-girlfriend, Frankie (Richard Ray Whitman) is clearly dying. That he is an Indian dying in Indian country makes his homeward journey inherently symbolic: Just as the elderly couple drives their old Volvo wagon to a certain funeral, the old ways are dying, too. Writer-director Sterlin Harjo is a Seminole-Creek Indian, and he refuses to detour the trip into sentimentality or pathos. Barking Water is hardly a cheerful representation of Native America (or, specifically, Oklahoma). Frankie and Irene (Casey Camp-Horinek) were never married, and there are suggestions he mayve been a bastard to her. But happier memories -- seen in flashbacks faded like Polaroids -- keep them going. They visit a few family members, including a pair of Yo, wassup? reservation homies, but, mainly, Harjo lets the landscape steer the story. Road dust and sun-flared car windows, wind moving through yellowed prairie, empty branches clawing the shuddering sky -- these hints of autumn abound. Much of the movie consists of road-trip montage (set to native songs and indie rock). The mood is melancholy, but not quite regretful. I finally feel like Im figuring it out, says Frankie. And, damn, Im out the door. Its not a complaint or epiphany, just another observation as the miles click past.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.