EIFF 2017: Strange Weather (2016) plus Q & A with Katherine Dieckmann
Holly Hunter plays Darcy Baylor, a woman living in Georgia, USA, who has lived through the suicide of her own son named Walker. Having since become estranged from her husband she can barely keep it together, relying on an accountancy job she’s in danger of losing, plus the support of her best friend Byrd (Carrie Coon) and bartender on-off boyfriend Clayton (Kim Coates).
One day, she finds out from a work colleague that one of her son’s old friends named Mark Wright has stolen a business idea he dreamt up before taking his own life: a successful Louisiana-based hot dog restaurant franchise called “Dawg House”. With this tragic event dredged up once more in Darcy’s mind, she persuades Clayton to hand her back a gun he has kept away from her for her own safety, and for Byrd to accompany her on a road trip to dig more deeply into the circumstances surrounding Walker’s death - by confronting a number of his erstwhile friends.
Watch a trailer:
The above plot synopsis makes Strange Weather sound rather like an investigative/revenge thriller, something it ultimately really is not. It’s more of a drama about facing up to a painful past and trying to make sense of it all. While the entire cast turns in fine work here, it’s Holly Hunter who plays a very large part of the film. She’s at her eccentric, force-of-nature best as a woman who is both incredibly strong-willed and perpetually on the edge of cracking under life’s strains. Hunter’s quirky spontaneity and distinctive Deep South accent are perfect in the part, and keep the viewer’s eyes glued to the screen even when, seemingly, very little is actually happening. Remember, the film isn’t about thrills (although there is a bit of a mystery element here); it’s about human coping mechanisms.
While Carrie Coon’s role is very much a supporting part here (despite her frequent presence on screen with Hunter), she also gets one or two moments to shine dramatically as she reveals an important piece of the puzzle from this story’s past. The road trip also manages a couple of quite haunting vignettes as Hunter’s Darcy briefly meets her ex-husband in a scene that turns from borderline resentment to palpable sadness, and a flooded Louisiana town confronts its own tragedy in the form of a flood: we see families piling up their few salvageable possessions by the road side - a heartbreaking image reminiscent of the devastation caused just over a decade ago by Hurricane Katrina.
As the film’s title suggests, the increasingly unpredictable Deep South weather patterns heavily punctuate its backdrop, from the record September heatwave experienced at the start, to the aforementioned flood, and even a rain shower (albeit of the man-made variety) at the end. In many ways, this weather is a reflection of Darcy’s own rather unpredictable actions during the course of the story, as well as her emotional state as she processes its various revelations. David Rush Morrison’s cinematography deserves credit here as he uses the yellowy, hazy end-of-summer heat to imbue a distinctive character into the shots.
Strange Weather is a fine small movie, and one that takes a truly feminine route of emotional catharsis over a past wrong, rather than the more typically masculine one of physical/violent catharsis.
The Q & A with Katherine Dieckmann, hosted by EIFF Artistic Director Mark Adams, was well worth sticking around for. Amongst other things, she talked about working with Holly Hunter (whom she described as being one of the most intense people she’s ever met), Carrie Coon (who didn’t take any roles between 2014’s Gone Girl and this film as she dislikes the typical Hollywood representation of women), and coping with the unpredictability of the real-life weather during the shoot.
Runtime: 92 mins
Dir: Katherine Dieckmann
Script: Katherine Dieckmann
Starring: Holly Hunter, Carrie Coon, Random Ashley, Walter Babington, Craig Boe, Kim Coates, Glenne Headly