A surreal fever-dream shot in shades of David Lynch, “Some Southern Waters” makes for a polished and cryptic if not wholly coherent debut feature from writer-director Julian Baner.
It’s a micro-budget indie with acting and cinematography that punch above their weight. The script? Well, not everybody can pull of that “strange for strange’s sake” thing Lynch used to produce, back before he disappeared into Transcendental Meditation.
Joe (Bry Reid) is a fellow who has abandoned hipster and moved into the next big thing in the youth culture cycle. He’s a pomade-obsessed greaser. He’s into Connie Francis sound-alike singers, bars with character, Florida mermaids and his girlfriend Mona (Rachel Comeau of TV’s “The Right Stuff”).
Mona? She’s all about her dreams, visions of a sinister opera singer (Diego Baner) and this water-logged old man (Jeff Evans) who rises from the sea like an apparition. Does it mean something?
“Sometimes I tell you things NOT because I want you to fix them!”
One night they drive off into the swamp, Rachel freaks at seeing her nightmare in the soggy flesh and nearly drowns. Joe? He dives in and pulls her out unconscious, pauses to take a leak before driving her to an emergency room (Mona would call that a “deal breaker”) and fumbles for cigarettes down the swampy pig-path they’re driving back on until he sees the old man again, crashes and kills Mona.
But after he shrugs this calamity off, he starts seeing Mona again — he thinks — in a traveling carnival’s mermaid show. What to do? Aside from sharing this with his friend-with-benefits Beth (Mariah Morgenstern)?
There are traces of humor in this, arguments that degenerate into something almost funny, like Joe noting how “old people (all) kind of look similar when they get older.” There’s not enough of that to lift this to the level of “a dark comedy.”
While I’m not a big fan of digital black and white — it’s generally flat, lacks contrast, everything is in a disorienting sharp focus — here it’s been put to good use to tell the story in pools of light in a sea of darkness. It aids in the film’s few recognizable effects, parking a carnival at the ocean’s edge, etc.
“Some Southern Waters” is stylish and strange and could make for some interesting interpretative barstool debates after it’s washed over you. But the slim story’s shortcomings and obscurant bent push this closer to the realm of “student film” than one would like. The consistent style and tone hold the promise that something better could show up down the road.
MPA Rating: Unrated, violence, sex, profanity, smoking
Cast: Bry Reid, Rachel Comeau, Mariah Morgenstern, and Jeff Evans.
Credits: Written and directed by Julian Baner. A Ghostly Visions release.
Running time: 1:17