Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel use as their backdrop in “Montana Story” the idyllic, monumental beauty of the mountains in Montana themselves. Montana is also known as “Big Sky Country.” Here you’ll see why. In the film, they’re snow covered and absolutely gorgeous.
The picturesque beauty of the land that surrounds a ranch home where, inside, lies an ailing and incapacitated father is very different from the ugliness that has happened inside the home. However, what is now and has always gone on inside is in complete contrast to what is going on inside the home now.
Cal, played by Owen Teague, makes his way back to the ranch where he grew up. He’s there to handle the business that takes place when death comes knocking. His father is brain dead from a terrible stroke and is under hospice care. Ace, played by Gilbert Owuor, is the nurse who takes cares for the patient. He attends to the needs of the body, essentially. Outside of his incoherent patient, he’s alone so he likes to puzzle to keep himself from being too bored. The man in the hospital bed is getting worse when suddenly Ace has two other people in the house. It’s a nice change but signals the end is near.
Erin (played by Haley Lu Richardson), who left years before Cal did, wanders in. This is something Cal did not, for good reason, expect to see. She mentions that her abusive father looks as if he’s sleeping but is assured he won’t be waking up. His brain is badly damaged and now only functions enough to keep his body running. At this point, if he didn’t have needles in his arms and a tube down his windpipe, he simply wouldn’t be. As Erin looks down at him, she doesn’t understand the strange bit of pity she feels.
She and Cal go to the barn to visit with the old horse, Mr. T, she left behind. He’s now full of arthritis and there’s no one available to properly care for him so Cal has arranged to have him put down. This will not do. When things got hard in life, she always had her friend Mr. T. Seeing him again makes her realize she still needs him and decides then and there to arrange getting him to her home in upstate New York. This leads the brother and sister to begin a discussion about where they’ve been the last few years and what made them leave one another for greener pastures; especially Erin.
The movie is rather slow in the beginning. The first half drags on slowly, feeling very melodramatic, but when it finds its feet, it becomes an exceptional tale of two siblings who can get over the past if they’ll only approach the subject. What’s good, but also what makes it a bit slow is that what the past holds isn’t revealed until much later. That works as both a good and a bad thing in my opinion. This is an unpredictable, thought-provoking, sentimental narrative with an exceptionally well picked cast of actors. I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of them soon.
“Montana Story” is being released theatrically from Bleecker Street.