Director: Emma Tammi
Writer: Teresa Sutherland
Cast: Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Ashley Zukerman, Dylan McTee, Miles Anderson
Running time: 86mins
What’s the story: When Isaac (Zukerman) is forced to leave his home to tend to a recent tragedy, his wife Lizzie (Gerard) is left alone on the vast expanse of frontier America with only the wind for company. And what that brings with it…
What’s the verdict: A magnificently assured feature debut from director Emma Tammi and writer Teresa Sutherland, The Wind is a five-star announcement of major new talents.
A Gothic Western, over 86-breathless-minutes it unleashes a tornado of psychological and supernatural batterings, leaving you stunned and exhilarated as the closing credits crawl.
All anchored by Caitlin Gerard’s superlative performance as Lizzie Macklin, a prairie homesteader living an isolated life with her husband, Isaac (Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike Zukerman). Into their set-up arrives Gideon (McTee) and his tremulous wife Emma (The Affair’s Telles), whom the Macklin’s take under their wing.
Beginning moments after a terrible event, and boldly revealing the fate of one major character in the opening scenes, The Wind flashes back and forwards to piece together what led to the tragedy, and its aftermath.
With a fragmented plot that increasingly mirrors Lizzie’s mind, Tammi generates tension from the opening shot (that Western staple, a cabin door). Despite the rolling plains and vast skies, the film keeps tight on Lizzie’s face or dwarfs her against a land yet to be tamed.
Which makes The Wind as claustrophobic as Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and as ominous as Robert Egger’s The Witch. And thanks to Lyn Moncrief’s velvet cinematography, there is no night blacker than a prairie night…
Outside the four main characters, the nearest sign of life is a local grave site, holding those beaten by the wilderness. Wildlife is represented by that fairytale favourite, the hungry wolf.
God is absent, save a well-meaning preacher (Anderson). Religion and superstition are fused in a creepy pamphlet outlining demons of the prairie, which the fragile Emma takes to memorising, and a pointed reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Tammi and Sutherland also play with the ambiguity over what is imagined and what is supernatural threat. As with that Gothic classic The Innocents, there is argument for both. Particularly when effective, judiciously deployed FX work notches up the spectacle in the final act.
Ben Lovett’s stark score is akin to a musical rendering of the titular gust, and mention too for Alexandra Amick’s editing, keeping the audience off-balanced but never confused.