In ‘West Michigan’, Hannah and Charlie’s grandfather falls ill, they begin a trip to go visit him, but the journey takes a turn when their breaks down.
Directed by: Riley Warmoth.
Starring: Chloe Ray Warmoth, Riley Warmoth, Seth Lee, Justin Mane, Victoria Mullen, Sydney Agudong, Berkley Bragg, Tom Knight, Isaac James Thornsen.
Country: United States.
Genre: Drama, comedy.
Running time: 76 minutes.
Riley Warmoth‘s suggestion of an issue in West Michigan holds an essence that I still don’t recognize. His film is a visual accomplishment that puts him at the top of his own game and rules, as if he did the movie for himself and his family. There’s nothing wrong with that, and perhaps he actually should be proud of himself. I imagine he is.
However, as I mentioned before, the lack of translation of his conflict into a more general subtext is too visible in his approach. West Michigan is a film about the struggle of a young girl whose spirit seems broken by something the film tries to acknowledge but simply omits in favor of her own victory.
Yes, I didn’t buy it. But if this is Warmoth’s idea of a celebration, why not applaud him and his attempt at telling a very common story? Indie cinema is often misunderstood as a constant try to feel “big”, but there’s nothing true in that misconception. Indie cinema is full of small dramatic stories that triumph in their own vernacular and their own scenario.
What’s the story here?
Hannah and Charlie decide to take a trip after they find out their grandfather gets sick and is actually on his deathbed. A sudden determination apparently makes Hannah lose her job (it’s not clear and she doesn’t even care) because of the short notice and thus begins a road trip that changes its setting too quickly. Their car breaks down and they must make a stop in a small town where they can camp and discuss in many settings. Hannah’s issues become clear when she tries to do something that makes her brother “wake up and smell the roses”. His sister’s attitude is proof of a larger scale problem that he decides to manage somehow.
And then West Michigan takes a few turns that don’t even make much sense to its conflict. Hannah’s behavior when she runs off and has an encounter with other teenagers feels considerable out of place in the movie. When did this become into a “coming of age” film with hazy characters that don’t matter much?
A tale of siblings that deviates from its stem
When I decided to watch West Michigan I found out it was a movie performed by a couple of actors that are actually brother and sister in real life. It made me real excited to see how their chemistry would work. I wasn’t able to notice it, since the conflict is manipulated towards Hannah’s issue and nothing more. The best scenes in West Michigan are those that show the two siblings going on about their unrevealed predicaments. The unnecessary shift of attention hurts West Michigan massively and the film turns into an uninteresting discovery of character.
A film must always matter to someone. Perhaps this one does.
West Michigan is clearly a more personal movie than I thought of. Its theme is recognizable as one that’s sadly omnipresent in our society, and definitely one we don’t know how to deal with. However, the solution proposed by Warmoth is far from being the deep contemplation we were expecting. In its third act, the film achieves closure by being too light and merciful with its very relevant subject. If I gave it too much though and wasn’t supposed to, then I’m sorry.