Northfork completes a trilogy of films for the Polish brothers, Michael (who directs and co-writes) and Mark (who co-writes. Twin Falls Idaho and Jackpot both explored what seems to be the Polishes favorite subject, loneliness and isolation. It is a recurring theme of Northfork, a gorgeous film that is a bit on the empty side. The year is 1955, and the town of Northfork is about to die. A new dam will cause their town to be at the bottom of a great lake of water, and the town hired six men to help move the remaining townsfolk to higher land. Their incentive is that if they meet a quota, they will get "1.5 acres of prime lakefront property." There are a lot of memories here, this being a small town and all, and some people are noticeably reluctant to move.
The main characters are Walter O'Brien (James Woods, Stuart Little 2, John Q.) and his son Willis (Mark Polish, The Good Thief). They are two of the people who are 'helping' to remove Northfolk's citizens. Willis is having serious second thoughts about what they are doing, and it doesn't help that Walter received a final notice to exhume his wife's body from the cemetery. He tries to convince himself that he is doing good. The script plays the other men for laughs. Two get stuck behind a car while a disgruntled resident fires on them, and another two trade puns. Father Harlan (Nick Nolte, The Good Thief, The Hulk) is caring for Irwin (Duel Farnes), a young boy who is dying. Northfork switches between these stories and Irwin's experiences. Four angels are looking for one of the relatives. Irwin believes that he is this person, but the others are reluctant to believe. Flower Hercules (Darryl Hannah, A Walk to Remember, Dancing at the Blue Iguana), one of the angels, is the only one who believes Irwin.
Irwin is the emotional heart of Northfork. He represents the town itself. He is dying because Northfork is dying, and he is looking for his relatives, or somewhere to belong. The only way to save him, or the town, is for the townsfolk to find something they can grasp onto. Harlan knows this, and this is something that Walter needs to discover. The Polishes skimp on story, perhaps to make the film seem more thoughtful or poetic. It does, but Northfork also feels a bit pretentious at times. Not much is going on, and some of it's weird depictions of Americana feel like David Lynch-lite.
Still, Northfork is a beautiful film to look at. The color palette is muted, resulting in lots of dulled grays, lending a somber feeling to the proceedings. The town itself is barren, with the occasional home dotting the landscape. The O'Briens and their coworkers go to each home in full-length trench coats and hats, and look like some cross between a government operative and mafia hit man. The angels look nothing like traditional angels, but more like something out of a circus troupe. The lack of dialogue reinforces all of the images, since the viewer is focusing on what the Polish brothers have on the screen instead of listening to what their characters are saying. Northfork is their most accomplished film to date, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.
|Mongoose Rates It: Okay.|
|1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated PG-13 for brief sexuality.|
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