Monday, December 19, 2011

#490. Northfork (2003)

Directed By: Michael Polish

Starring: James Woods, Nick Nolte, Anthony Edwards

Trivia:  The film was nominated for Best Cinematography at the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards

Written and directed by brothers Mark and Michael Polish, Northfork is the kind of movie I adore; a film that weaves fantasy into a realistic setting while also balancing elements of comedy and drama. Whether you want to laugh, cry, or simply be amazed, you will find what you’re looking for in this film.

It’s 1955, and the good citizens of Northfork must abandon their homes to make way for a new hydroelectric dam, which, once operational, will flood the entire area. Yet, despite repeated alerts and warnings, not everyone has left town. 

It falls to a small group of men (all dressed in black) to clear out Northfork before the waters arrive. Among those trying to convince the stragglers to hit the road are Walter O’Brien (James Woods) and his son, Willis (Mark Polish), who volunteer their time in exchange for a prime tract of land in a brand new community. But their job won't be easy, seeing as many of those who remain are bound and determined to stay put. 

Father Harlan (Nick Nolte) is one such stubborn resident, still in Northfork because he's caring for a dying boy named Irwin (Duel Farnes). But as Father Harlan discovered a while back, Irwin is worth the risk. As he lapses in and out of consciousness, the young boy experiences visions that have him convinced he’s the long-lost Angel of Northfork. 

In fact, a small band of real angels has just arrived in town, tasked with investigating whether or not Irwin’s ‘divine’ revelations are the real deal. 

Northfork knits plenty of drama into its unique story, both on a grand scale (the death of an entire town) and a more intimate one (the illness of young Irwin). By themselves, either of these elements would make for an unforgettable motion picture. But there are laughs as well, generated by the men in black during their run-ins with the most obstinate of Northfork’s population. Mr. Stalling (Marshall Bell) won't leave because he's prepared himself for the coming flood... by turning his house into an Ark! While he didn’t have time to gather 2 giraffes, 2 tigers, or even 2 chickens, Mr. Stallings was able to rustle up two wives (Saralyn Sebern and Ginny Watts)

Yet what I found most impressive about Northfork was its moments of pure fantasy, as related in the story of Irwin and his four angelic visitors. One of the four, an angel named Flower Hercules (Daryl Hannah), believes Irwin is telling the truth, while her accomplices, Cup of Tea (Robin Sachs) and Happy (Anthony Edwards), still have their doubts. The fourth, played by Ben Foster, never speaks. The imagery in these sequences is nothing short of astounding, and it consistently challenges us to accept the incredible, even when presented within the context of a very real world. 

With Northfork, the brothers Polish have successfully blended the fantastic with the everyday, often leaving us guessing where one begins and the other ends. With the possibility of something marvelous lurking around every corner, Northfork is a film to savor. And I, for one, love it.

No comments: