Indigo Valley (2020)

The gap between sisters Louise (Rosie Day) and Isabella (Jaclyn Bethany) flows like the River Kwai.  One of them spends a lifetime mending the bridge, while the other packs it with dynamite.  Indigo Valley is a stark, moody study of this relationship, in a film that gets spiked with a few surprises.  It’s not perfect, but patient viewers will find a lot to absorb here, especially in an ambiguous final act.

We begin as Louise and her new husband John (Brandon Sklenar) embark on a honeymoon in the wilderness.  As soon as they arrive, Isabella pops up to provide what every romantic getaway needs:  A third wheel!  In contrast to the warm and chipper Louise, Isabella is a volatile mix of mood swings and impulsive decisions.  The trio heads to an inn, lugging ten tons of emotional baggage in tow.  

As Louise and Isabella attempt to smooth out their differences, details about the three main characters begin to emerge.  All are artists on different career trajectories:  Isabella is a former child star who has traded in her acting ability for bottles of vodka.  Louise struggles to gain a foothold as a young artist, while John’s spiritual commitment to the violin drives a wedge between the two.  It’s not long before all this pent-up frustration starts to hiss like a boiling teapot.  

Bethany also writes and directs, and she has a sharp ear for dialogue.  Notice Isabella’s tryst with an affable ranch hand (Atli Oskar Fjalarsson):  She’s bubbly and empathetic one minute, only to casually mock his name and alienate him in the next.  Meanwhile, Louise often drapes her words with a layer of cheerfulness, as if to provide a defiantly friendly counterpoint to her sullen sister.  

Indigo Valley maintains a mood of melancholia throughout, and all the performers oblige that with appropriately intense performances.  Day, in particular, excels at playing a good-hearted person with loads of emotional complexity buried underneath.  Sklenar also captures the conflicted John, who’s caught between the decency of Louise and the enigmatic Isabella. This film is a showcase for actors, and all three leads keep it compelling.

If Indigo has a flaw, it’s that it doesn’t serve up enough of a good thing.  Bethany’s story clocks in at just over 70 minutes, and could’ve used even more development. That’s a quibble you won’t hear from me often, as most movies don’t know when to shut up and go home.  This time, I wanted more.  Tantalizing crumbs are scattered about Isabella’s life as a child actress, and the age-old conflicts that sent the sisters spiraling in opposite directions.  I enjoyed the writing and acting enough that another helping of it would’ve been great.

But that’s far from a deal-breaker.  Indigo Valley is a smart, illuminating little film.  It absolutely nails the complex, unknowable relationship that can develop between sisters.  The story takes some unpredictable turns, and I won’t dare spoil them here.  For anybody in the mood for a layered, introspective drama, Jaclyn Bethany’s film is definitely worth a look. 

73 min.  NR.  

 

Author: Todd Wofford

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