Tom Putnam’s film ‘The Dark Divide,’ based on Robert Pyle’s book, ‘Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide,’ is about Pyle’s 1995 trek through Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
For reference, Gifford Pinchot is a forest that spans 2,000 miles of wilderness. It’s one of the largest undeveloped, unexplored, and quite sadly, unprotected areas in the United States, something you learn when you start the film. The title comes from what the locals call this forest. I feel compelled to mention that this is the perfect role for David Cross, who plays lepidopterist and author, Robert Pyle. A lepidopterist is a person who studies and collects moths and butterflies, something that interests Pyle greatly. Pyle is thrilled that he gets the Guggenheim Fellowship grant he has been wanting so he can do just that. When he opens a letter finding out he received the much-coveted grant, he wants to share the news with his beloved wife Thea, played by Debra Messing, but isn’t able to since she has recently lost her battle with cancer.
The pain he feels from the loss of his soulmate comes up in several scenes, all of which Cross handles magnificently. Known for his work in ‘Arrested Development’ and other television comedies, the gifted actor shows he’s capable of much more than just satire. At the same time, his comedic roots do kick in while he makes his way through the woods, helping entertain his audience. That ability is a good thing since he’s the only actor on screen most of the time. Who but Cross could gratify with a simple premise such as catching butterflies and moths?
I have to mention that while he’s looking at a group of big black clouds that he thinks are beautiful, you’ll laugh hysterically at what he goes through next. I won’t say why.
I will say that there are several things that make this an even better watch for those indulging in the year 2020. At the present moment, most of us are trapped inside and have been for what feels like an eternity. ‘The Dark Divide’ allows you to traipse along with Pyle, and you’re able to forget all about the pandemic for a little while. Movies. The ultimate escape. Speaking of, we open on Pyle in a cave, seemingly, running for his life. You’ll be brought back to that scene later in the film when you watch him ignore the locals who attempt to caution him about going on foot by himself. They also tell him about the bears and their appetites for tourists who fail to take their warnings to heart.
Through Pyle, we’re taught about nature and see how each of us should make an effort to care for it more than we do. Pyle speaks of how, when people kill insects we see as common irritants, we do this without considering how, in the grand scheme of things, losing that species affects everything up the food chain. Putnam stresses this point when he has his actor remove a spider from a glass of water and set it aside, in place of killing the arachnid with no thought of the larger picture. Pyle also doesn’t throw out his tainted refreshment but rather finishes it as planned.
As the movie goes on, we get to know Pyle more. We know he’s intelligent, but we quickly see that he might think he’s smarter than he is. One example of this is that he puts little thought into being adequately prepared for this trip. He knows what many books tell him to be ready for, but can he really handle being on this trail alone? There are times when he gets frightened and seems in way over his head, walking by posts he should pay attention to. Then there are the lonely times.
I can’t close without acknowledging the first-class score and the soundtrack, which is remarkable. These two aspects of Putnum’s film are definitely reasons to see, ‘The Dark Divide.’ With artists such as The Avett Brothers, Giants in the Trees featuring Krist Novoselić, and The National Reserve, how could it be anything but outstanding?! I promise that you will not be disappointed with what you hear nor in what you see. Put this one on your must-watch list.
*VOD/Digital Release Nov 10, 2020
**You can find where to rent or buy the film in your country and platform of choice at www.darkdividefilm.com
The Dark Divide
Director: Tom Putnam
Writers: Tom Putnam *Based on the book by Robert M. Pyle
Stars: David Cross and Debra Messing, with David Koechner, Cameron Esposito, Gary Farmer and Patterson Hood
Running Time: 1h 47m
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama