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A Sweet Slice of Life Reserved – The Hollywood Reporter


fried face and me It unfolds during one of those weird young adult seasons where not much technically happens but everything changes afterward, in a small but important way. Plot-wise, it’s slim: Benny (Keir Tallman) is an 11-year-old from San Diego who is sent to stay with his grandmother (Sara Natani) on a Navajo reservation for the summer, where he meets and befriends his cousin. Dawn, aka Frybread Face (Charlie Hodges). Husband while away for months doing what children do – playing with dolls, watching Starman They keep on repeating and snooping through their uncle’s things in between chores on the family’s sheep farm—until suddenly, it’s time for Benny to come home.

but what fried face and me Lacking drama, it makes up for in its characters’ boundless affection and appreciation for the everyday details in their lives. Combined with sparse narrative segments from an older Benny, looking back on the summer of 1990 with the wisdom and wistfulness of distance, Benny and Dawn’s young adventures produce a sweet, gentle drama that runs deeper than it might seem at first.

fried face and me

bottom line

Sweet slice of life.

place: SXSW Film Festival (narrative highlight)
Throw: Keir Tallman, Charlie Hogan, Martin Sensmeier, Morningstar Angeline, Kahara Hodges, Sarah H. Natani
Director and screenwriter: Billy Luther

1 hour 22 minutes

Despite the opening voiceover about the importance of symbolism in Navajo storytelling, fried face and meWritten and directed by Billy Luther, it mostly takes a light touch with its metaphors. Its events unfold in a fairly straightforward fashion as Dawn’s initial wariness of her cousin, the city mouse, gives way to a sort of protectiveness. Gradually, she tutored Benny in their family’s ways—teaching him bits of the Navajo language (all the better for communicating with their grandmother, who refused to learn English), bringing out gossip crumbs, guiding him through traditional rituals and generally instilling him with a sense of pride and connection to a background that seemed unfamiliar. him at first.

Hodges brings a confidence beyond her years to Dawn, offset by Tallman’s remarkable presence; The dynamic they share will feel comforting and familiar to anyone who has had (or had) a bossy friend growing up. They are surrounded by a rotating group of adult relatives: the kind and very traditional grandmother; prickly Uncle Marvin (Martin Sensmayer); gorgeous Aunt Lucy (Kahara Hodges); Judge’s Aunt Sharon and Uncle Roger (Nashin Sloth and Jeremiah Bitsoy, in brief but funny appearances). Each is drawn vividly enough that it is a little disappointing that we do not get to know them better as individuals of three dimensions in their own right—other than whatever model of mature life they represent for children.

but then, fried face and me He adheres first and foremost to Penny’s worldview, so that even the visuals subtly reflect his development. When Benny arrives at Grandma’s, what we first see is how simple and empty it looks—a tidy but shabby house surrounded by miles of dirt, standing in sharp contrast to the breezy chaos of Benny’s California bedroom. But over the course of the film’s 82 minutes, we begin to notice more and more of its beauty: the striking hues of rocks and cacti that dot the landscape, the rainbow of colorful shirts and skirts at a family celebration, the solemn serenity of the room where Grandma looms intricate traditional rugs to sell to tourist shops.

We also take into account the random little details that seem to exist for no other reason than that life is full of random details—like the Dukakis shirt on a guy selling pickles at the rodeo, or Marvin’s gruff explanation saying his car doesn’t have a windshield because I made it that way. I don’t know how many fried face and me It’s actually based on personal experience, though interviews with Luther and excerpts from old camcorder footage may point to at least some of it. Regardless, her attentive gaze has the intimacy of a personal memory.

throughout, fried face and me Generous with the space that allows Benny to immerse himself in all of these traditions, new characters, and ideas, and define what they mean to him. “Are you a cowboy or a cowgirl?” Marvin mocks Benny’s arrival, looking at the ladies’ hat on his head and the puppets (i.e. action figures) in his hands. “I’m just Benny,” he replied puzzled. Marvin might see it as his role to turn that kid into a man — but the movie itself allows Benny the agency to declare that if being a cowboy or being a man means being like Marvin, “I don’t want to be any of those things.”

What Penny does in the end, we never learn; Even the voiceovers offer a little insight into what his life is like as an adult. fried face and me It is not so much about guiding these children towards any particular future as it is about rooting them in a vibrant past. As Benny prepares to leave near the end of the movie, Dawn finds herself sitting in the kitchen alone, suddenly feeling abandoned. Luther, poignantly, frames her head so that it is in the center of a semicircle of family photos. This moment is a quiet reminder that wherever Dawn and Benny are, they’ll never be alone – and wherever they go next, it’s important where they come from.

Full credits

Venue: SXSW Film Festival (narrative highlight)
Production companies: Indian Entertainment and REI Co-op Studios
Cast: Keir Tallman, Charlie Hogan, Martin Sensmeier, Morningstar Angeline, Kahara Hodges, Sara Natani
Director and Screenwriter: Billy Luther
Producer: Chad Burris
Executive Producers: Taika Waititi, Bill Way, Elliott Whitton, Charles D. King, Poppy Hanks, Greta Talia Fuentes, Bill Pohlad, Kim Roth, Christa Workman, Tegan Acton, Emma Ruse, Hallee Adelman, Ivy Herman, Paolo Mottola, Joe Crosby , Vinton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Martha Gregory, Robinia Richlow
Director of Photography: Peter Simonet
Production Designer: Jonathon “Robot” Long
Wardrobe Supervisor: Jessie Dale
Editor: Fred Cushman
Music: Ryan Beveridge
Casting Director: Angelique Midthunder
Sales: CAA

1 hour 22 minutes

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.