The need to tell a story and the desire not to collide in Live Cargo, the narratively uneven but visually exquisite debut feature from writer-director Logan Sandler. Shot on the island of Staniel Cay, in the Bahamas, this black-and-white drama centers on Nadine (Dree Hemingway) and Lewis (Lakeith Stanfield), whose newborn child dies as the film begins. Grief-stricken, they retreat to the island where Nadine spent much of her youth, and though Lewis clearly feels out of place, Nadine slips easily into the daily rhythms of the local fishing community. The well-acted Live Cargo, which also features Robert Wisdom and Sam Dillon, is at its best when it observes character acting silently against landscape, as when Nadine goes snorkeling and uses a spear gun to jab at sharks, a juxtaposition of natural beauty and human fury typical of Sandler’s poetic approach.
The HD cinematography, by newcomer Daniella Nowitz, is magnificent. I won’t soon forget the sight of Lewis walking down a dark road late at night with lightning suddenly igniting the horizon behind him. In the final act, Sandler and co-writer Thymaya Payne press hard on the plot, and a long sequence involving a stolen boat and Haitian refugees feels like a forced attempt at a thematic resolution for Nadine and Lewis. It doesn’t ring true, but no matter — Sandler is a filmmaker to watch.
Directed by Logan Sandler
Gunpowder & Sky Distribution
Opens March 31, Cinema Village