Greetings again from the darkness. Those of us who were watching movies in the 1970’s recall Perry King as one of the fresh-faced, hunky twenty-somethings in THE LORDS OF FLATBUSH (1974) … along with Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler. Now, more than 40 years later, not only does Mr. King star as crusty old rancher Sam Kincaid, but he also directs his first feature film. The script is written by Jana F Brown, in what is also her first screenplay. Due to its setting, the film could be labeled as a western, but it’s really a personal drama emphasizing the importance of family reconciliation.
Sam Kincaid (King) is an elderly rancher who lives on land that looks a great deal like the Lucas McCain ranch from the TV classic “The Rifleman”. We first see Sam as he shares his philosophy of mending fences with his hired help. If you are curious, it has to do with knowing “why the holes are there”. Luke (Bryan Kaplan) is the young ranch hand who must not only deal with the severe drought-plagued northern California climate of 1976, but also the past-their-prime tools and equipment. Presenting even more of a challenge is Sam himself.
Sam is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and his house is decorated with personal notes reminding him how the light switch works, or to perform some other menial task. A particularly pointed note on the phone states, “your daughter doesn’t want to talk to you”. Luke figures out the father and daughter had some kind of falling out, but he soon realizes Sam’s disease is progressing pretty quickly. He tracks down daughter Sarah (Sara Arrington) and pleads with her to come visit her father.
As much as I enjoyed the banter between Sam and Luke, the film picks up a bit when Sarah and her son (Sam’s unknown grandson) arrive. Family issues, secrets and skeletons in the closet make communication between these folks more than a tad uncomfortable at times. However, slowly we see the “fence” mending … and Sam’s early philosophy becomes crystal clear. Campfire-style music plays throughout much of the film, and Sam’s repeated questions allow Luke, Sarah, and grandson CJ to comprehend what’s happening and what needs to be done. Sam’s recurring nightmare can only be stopped with a reconciliation that’s painful for all involved. Perry King proves his effectiveness as an aged rancher, and also as a first time filmmaker. He and Ms. Brown deliver a nice message … and the black and white photography serves the faces and setting quite well.
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