Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

(Written by Intern, Wyatt Frantz)

Peak Season is a beautifully meditative sophomore film from Henry Loevner and Steven Kanter that displays how the Midwest and life’s fleeting relationships can be a beautiful thing. Using cinematic minimalism and the Wyoming mountaintops to their advantage, a new light is shone on the “city folk meets country life” storyline we are all familiar with, asking big questions about personal belonging and life’s obligations. 

We open on Loren (Derrick DeBlasis), a local car-dwelling fly-fishing teacher and wilderness guide, giving fishing lessons to Max (Ben Coleman), a successful and results-oriented supply chain manager. Max impulsively decides to vacation to the town with his fiancé, Amy (Claudia Restrepo), who recently quit her job as a business consultant but cannot seem to figure out what she wants out of life. Amy goes on a fishing lesson with Loren, and Max departs back to New York soon after, leaving her to go soul searching with Loren amidst a picturesque small-town lifestyle. 

It is difficult to talk about Peak Season without mentioning its cinematography, which focuses on photogenic mountains and nature trails one would otherwise find in a travel magazine. Such imagery is found in nearly every outdoor scene, rather than being scattered in a wide shot here or there. The simple guitar-strummed soundtrack was utilized in a refreshing way, making a great fit for the folk setting in a way that did not feel like obligatory stock music. Various deviations in the track selection manage to further revitalize the film, bringing more energy to its emotional beats.

Using a strong focus on setting, the cinematography makes it easy for us to understand why Amy falls in love with Jackson Hole. By allowing the audience to understand the beauty and romanticization of the town, the presence of the posh tourist culture feel justified. Viewers are swayed into thinking of Jackson Hole as an ideal vacation spot before it contrasts the tourists with the countrymen who truly feel connected to the land. Amy’s comparatively heartfelt experience allows us to understand why she feels lost, as she navigates conflict with this cash-driven lifestyle she is already stuck with.

Claudia and Derrick’s performances manage to bring life to such a simple premise. Naturalistic writing makes the baseline of each character feel real, and Claudia and Derrick send it all home, adding to the authenticity. I was reminded of a few people that I know when watching this, and would be surprised if anyone felt differently. The thing that bothered me the most is the very slow pacing, and the lack of density. The story falls victim to its characters being too glued in their ways of life, and not very much to happens as a result. But then again, that is exactly what Peak Season is about. Is anyone to blame for this? There are quite a few strings of long conversations that do not bring much to the table, nor do they impact the story whatsoever, but that doesn’t stop them from having any purpose. Internally, each character interaction manages to bring some light of emotion to each scene.

I think films like Peak Season are a great reminder that not every conflict on screen has to have scandalous, larger-than life stakes. Sometimes it is okay to just relax and let vibes take one away, such as the mesmerizing Wyoming scenery in this picture. Even though not much happens, it makes for a peaceful, easy watch that one may find cathartic in the midst of a bustling work week. If one is searching for a new comfort film, look no further!

Catch the mountainous world premiere of Peak Season at SXSW Film Festival on Sunday, May 12.

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