Jeff Nichols’ directorial debut from 2007 titled Shotgun Stories tracks a feud that erupts between two sets of half brothers following the death of their father. Set against the cotton fields and back roads of Southeast Arkansas, these brothers discover the lengths to which each will go to protect their family. The film consists of a small cast, mainly focusing on Michael Shannon. It was written and directed by Jeff Nichols.
Shotgun Stories is subtly emotional and thoughtfully conscious in terms of its thematic material. Knowing that the movie revolves around a feud between two sets of brothers, you might quickly expect this movie to have a lot of violence as suggested by the film’s title alone. Well, no. Director Jeff Nichols shows us that he doesn’t need to let a certain brutality to the movie’s tone to complete itself. For an hour and a half, he allows the story to entirely revolve around these brothers, one of which is Michael Shannon. In him and his two brothers, the narrative gets exposed and we are ultimately engaged in their brotherly relationships.Through these characters, Nichols builds a connection for the viewers to relate to, letting us care for what will happen next to them. The moments we share with them are simply engrossing enough, mostly when their exchange of dialogue comes at play. It let the characters move the story forward just as we get invested in it deeply, and told its story through their emotional state.
The violence is eschewed from and isn’t brutally shown in the feud, but the film rather lets us find out more about it in its calm and contemplative characters. Shannon’s gentle acting and conveying of feelings altogether is what makes the film as a whole, putting the focus on him and just letting us stare at his face that emits all his emotions in almost every scene. Sometimes almost even effortlessly, as if he’s not even reading a script and as if he’s really involved in this entire situation. It is a mark of his brilliance and it is authenticated by his simplistic performance that produced a riveting cinematic experience. His characterization as a brother who is gentle yet pensive strays away from the norms of the film’s genre, most notably for being non-reckless. It has basically shown a different side to themes of familial feud by manufacturing a perfect sense of intellectual and spiritual depth, albeit almost quieted. The film’s toning-down of its characters serves as the film’s main engine.
In it, a quasi-religious theme gets formed, and it becomes the highlight of the film’s nature. The usage of the county setting is quite remarkable, and quickly demands our attention right away from the start. Adding to that is the brothers’ relationships with one another that never ceased to keep us hooked, most specially when they are making use of their surroundings that would leave a mark on us after it all ends. Because after all, they kept us involved with this feud as they let us marvel upon their conscientious ways. The drama is definitely infused into it, and it is all but apathetic if one were to speak about how it effectively tried to play with our thoughts and feelings.Contributing to this is Nichols’ integration of country music to further intensify the film’s themes.
Jeff Nichols has definitely shown something different in the film’s execution of themes, and allowed the gentle words and a particularly spiritual sense to let the narrative run quietly. All achieved without diverging away from the quiet tension that the story centers on. At a certain point it almost gets affecting, and it becomes so because moments prior to the tragedy, the film let us absorb whatever it is they have. The climax although almost too non-eventful, is just right and proper. It settles the plot and ends the film on an evened-out note, proving that it was all enough to make Shotgun Stories compelling all throughout and an even more impressive directorial debut. What you’ll see what from it absolutely promised great things from the director, and that statement is rather doubtless since Shotgun Stories was an effortless yet great enough start.
Meanwhile, Jeff Nichols’ latest sci-fi drama Midnight Special is now showing in select Philippine cinemas. See it in cinemas now!