Hank, a solitary man living a dull existence in the sleepy Southern town, raises eyebrows when he develops a questionable relationship with Josie, a recently transplanted high school student.

Hank (Dylan McDermott) lives a quiet life. The resident of a sleepy, yet tight-knit klatch of apartments in the middle of rural Texas, he whiles away his existence by fishing in the local lake for dinner, guzzling whiskey, and spending time with his turtles. Occasionally neighbors Martha (Robin Bartlett) and Gordie (Kurt Fuller) check in on him and say hello. Just about the most exciting thing that happens, if you even want to call it that, are the occasional run-ins Hank has with local teen Gator (Daeg Faerch) and his crew.

All of this changes when emancipated teen Josie (Sophie Turner) moves into the apartment across the way from Hank and begins finishing her senior year at the local high school. The interactions are innocent at first. Josie brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to the sleepy berg, inciting lively conversation and even a cook-out. Then Hank and Josie begin to bond. The optics are a little off though. Hank is a 40-something man living alone, and Josie an independent 18-year old that oozes innocent sensuality.

Then Hank and Josie begin to bond. The optics are a little off…”

It’s impressive how very subtly writer Anthony Ragnone II introduces conflict. Everything seems totally normal until it’s not and by that point, things are too far gone to save. Josie takes its Texas time meandering through the three-act structure that we’ve come to expect and the effect is actually an interesting thing to see happen in retrospect.

Of course, there is conflict, a reason for the action, but to go too much into it would rob the film of its subtle power to surprise. Turner’s Josie is a disarming character who you are immediately drawn to without falling into the usual cliches. McDermott plays the leading man with a brooding, resigned silence that just makes me want to see more of him. The stand out of the film, however, is Bartlett’s Martha. The loving busybody that looks after all in her orbit seems to glow with a maternal warmth effortlessly, making her all the more empathetic.

Eric England capably directs a smooth movie with a light touch that packs a punch. His choice in the use of a rich, down-home score is a nice bit of juxtaposition and makes one wonder what the heck he was going for. It works to mislead expectation nicely. This quiet little thriller doesn’t easily fit into a category and that’s a shame. It’s original, and a compelling watch that may not get the attention it deserves.

My advice is to see it. This is a polished little movie with a tight cast, a good script, fine performances, and a director who knows what he is doing. It isn’t a thrill ride of a movie, but more of a lazy boat ride leading to the falls.

Josie (2017) Directed by Eric England. Written by  Anthony Ragnone II. Starring Sophie Turner, Dylan McDermott, Daeg Faerch.

Josie is worth Matinee (***)

Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)

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