Rating: 4 out of 5.

Montana Story tells an intimate and emotional tale of two siblings, using the gorgeous mountainous backdrop of Montana state. I enjoyed Haley Lu Richardson in 2019’s Five Feet Apart, and I found Owen Teague to be impressive in Stephen King remakes of It and The Stand, but both young actors have never been this raw and resonant. Written and directed by filmmaking duo Scott McGeHee and David Siegel (2012’s What Maisie Knew), Montana Story examines grief and loss through an unfiltered lens of truth and tragedy.

Cal (Teague) and Erin (Richardson) have finally returned home to the secluded family farmhouse. Their father has fallen into a coma in the aftermath of a severe stroke, so Cal is home getting his dad’s affairs in order, whilst estranged Erin just wants to see her dad one final time. When Erin learns Cal is planning to have their 25-year-old horse Mr. T put down to pasture, Erin immediately cancels her flight, and commits to taking Mr. T back home with her to New York. Of course, neither scenario is convenient for each of the siblings. They face insurmountable set-backs, while at the same time struggling to accept that their father will never awaken from his coma.

The tragic family history, a staple of any good drama movie, is aptly-scripted and acted. Erin has not returned home for over seven years for quite a juicy reason that would traumatize any individual. However, no part of this story feels manufactured or wooden. The plot ebbs and flows organically, and does not forget to provide both Cal and Erin with meaningful purpose and emotional goodbyes. Cal’s interactions with Ace (Gilbert Owuor), his father’s aide, help provide context on the man’s general condition without having to show us.

One may think thrills and stakes cannot be wrung from a story which essentially frames the villain as the one in the coma. I have to say this filmmaking duo surprisingly fires on all cylinders when it comes to a late-in-the-game scene where their father’s respirator loses power. The dialogue is so vital (especially when recalling stories) that almost every word had me on the edge of my seat. A somber and meaningful ending makes the taste only that much sweeter. Montana Story will not be for everyone, but it does not need to be. This flavor of drama is bound to find the proper audience due to the pedigree of its skilled cast and crew. “You know what they say about Montana—if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes!”

Montana Story screened at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

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