By Don Simpson | January 25, 2015
Director: Britni West
Writer: Britni West
Starring: Paul Dickinson, Beck DeRobertis, Hillary Berg, Liz Randall, Rainleigh Vick, Charles Smith, Alex Karpovsky
Shot by Adam Ginsberg (Awful Nice, Red Flag, Marvin Seth and Stanley), the rural Montana town captured within Britni West’s Tired Moonlight seems to have been stuck in a time capsule for a few decades. A transfixing snapshot of stilted working class life in an economically destroyed part of the United States, West skillfully juxtaposes the trapped nature of her characters with their tenacity for enjoying freedom. The neo-realist ensemble of Tired Moonlight dream of hitting the jackpot and escaping; until then, they continue to do what they can to get by, while enjoying every little bit of downtime.
It is as if the surrounding Montanan landscape serves as an ever-present reminder that there is much more to existence than grieving about their financial hardships. Car races, fairgrounds, water parks, and swimming all serve as periodic respites from the near-crippling stresses of reality. The children are by far the most free in this community, partly due to their innocence but also because the adults seem too distracted to keep too close of an eye on them. As the kids run around with reckless abandon, the parental philosophy seems to be “what does not kill them will make them stronger” — the hardened souls of the adults are a perfect example of that mantra (for one, their steady diet of junk food has yet to kill them). The adults have weathered many storms of stress and frustration, yet they have soldiered on. Their minor problems, such as dating, seem practically inconsequential.
Dawn (Liz Randall), for one, seems barely rattled by her on-again, off-again relationship with Paul (Paul Dickinson). As Paul drifts in and out of town, Dawn seems to have learned how to appreciate the high points of their relationship and not worry about any of the other moments. Dawn appreciates Paul’s perspective as a seasoned author who has freely experienced other people and places; that same appreciation serves as the impetus for West to occasionally allow Paul to moonlight as the narrator of the film, providing us with the outsider’s poetic ruminations on life.
Sarah (Hilary Berg) is another female who has been unable to tame any of the wild men of Tired Moonlight. A young single mother, Sarah has no problem attracting the male gaze; yet she has learned a strength and tenacity that has enabled her to be independent. The representations of Dawn and Sarah establish a theme in Tired Moonlight about the fearless independence of women and the noncommittal aloofness of the men around them; when shit has to get done to survive, it is usually the women doing the shit. That said, West’s perspective is never condescending or judgmental, instead she focuses on capturing the natural poetry of the mundanity of everyday life. Tonally the film works in brilliant collaboration with the cinematography, presenting us a place that was once idyllic and its remaining residents who struggle to keep the American dream alive.