Vincent Sweeney’s Blue Ridge is the tale of a small town trailer park, and the personalities that inhabit it, particularly maintenance man J.T. (Eric Sweeney). At the beck and call of a sleazy landlord (Sean Gullette), J.T. goes about his business, working on cars, fixing trailer antennas, fixing up trailers and (barely) tolerating the people who live around him.
When Sara (Audra Glyn Smith) comes into his life, a woman caring for her grandfather who is on his last legs, J.T. steps out of his comfort zone a bit. Their courtship is awkward as all get out, but somehow the two mix well together, and Sara latches onto an idea of J.T.’s to own and run their own amusement park rides, something that seems all the more realistic when her grandfather passes, leaving her with some money to work with.
Of course, that doesn’t mean J.T. is ready to disrupt his life, and he finds himself ill-equipped to deal with someone who might actually take his ideas seriously. To J.T., even 100 miles away might as well be the moon, and his relationship with Sara is truly pushing him beyond his comfort zone. Unfortunately, J.T. is someone who probably shouldn’t be pushed too far in any direction, even if he isn’t making it outright obvious that he’s uncomfortable. There’s something going on below the surface that we get hints at early on, but don’t fully grasp until the film rolls into its final minutes.
Which overall is a testament to Eric Sweeney’s portrayal of J.T.; the seemingly blank slate with chaos bubbling out of sight manages to stay engaging even when gruff and small-minded. His dream of having his own amusement park rides, albeit the smaller ones, is captivating in how out-of-left-field it seems, especially considering he seems to release it shortly after expressing it out loud. Of course, Sara doesn’t let it go as quickly as he does.
Blue Ridge captures that moral ambiguity that seems to gestate in some small towns, and presents it with an almost David Lynch flourish, albeit with a rural taste. Every character that graces the screen in this film feels slightly “off,” whether because they’re engaged in questionable activity or, if not, at least contemplating it.
On the technical side of things, Blue Ridge looks and sounds great. There’s something to be said for a film that looks and feels like it was actually shot on film (and guess what, Blue Ridge was shot on Super 16mm), and something more to be appreciated when it is shot well (I’m no format snob; you shoot like shit with 35mm and I don’t care if there’s grain in that there visual atrocity). Everything about the imagery draws you in, and much like those in the trailer park, sometimes you don’t know how to get back out.
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