Mississippi-born filmmaker Jaclyn Bethany tells a story of love, madness and betrayal in “Indigo Valley,” adapted from her short film of the same title.
The original film was set and shot in Iceland. The feature-length version, alas, is not.
Bethany starred in both films as well, and uses the feature film to give herself many, many more brooding closeups capturing the mania her character — apparently a former child actress — lives with.
Closeups reveal many things; like an actress who telegraphs her gestures, so mannered in that every sense-dulling second, with every glower in a mirror, every theatrical splashing of water in her face, every over-considered, halting line reading, an inescapable truth faces her and anybody sitting through the 75 minutes of “Indigo Valley.”
She’s a bad actress.
And all that screen time she gives herself, all those close-ups? It’s all for tone and does nothing in terms of telling or advancing the paper-thin story.
Impulsive, sad Isabella (Bethany) is just the person you want to check out of rehab and take with you on your honeymoon to a dude ranch out West. That’s what her estranged sister Louise (British actress Rosie Day of “Outlander”) does, with the blessing of her new husband, John (Brandon Sklenar of “Mapplethorpe” and recently, “The Big Ugly”).
Isabella fumes and tries to push the sister propping her up away. She picks up an employee of the ranch. She has a lot of flashbacks, as do Louise and John. We see how the painter Louise met the violinist John. And we see Isabella’s troubled connection to their early days together. She is obsessed with…somebody.
Isabella, as a character, is damaged, dazed and frankly dull. The lack of conversation in the film masks this only so much. Montages of her pink-haired youth — whispered madness or mournful pop underscoring them — don’t further illuminate the character, or explain her supposed appeal, sexual or otherwise.
“Life is made up of these kinds of moments,” she intones, at her most profound. “Sometimes we don’t understand them. Sometimes we do.”
Damn. I’m hustling across the bar to meet up with this Algonquin Roundtable conversationalist. Yes, the delivery of that line is as flat as the line itself.
There’s the germ of an idea here, about a short film’s worth. A full-length feature only exposes a sea of shortcomings. This is a “vanity project” in the worst sense of the phrase.
Cast: Jaclyn Bethany, Rosie Day, Brandon Sklenar
Credits: Written and directed by Jaclyn Bethany. A Giant Pictures release.
Running time: 1:14