MONTANA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2020 REVIEW! Isolated deep in the wilderness, stoner grad assistants Albert (Whitmer Thomas) and Ian (Zach Weintraub) embark on woodland expeditions and sessions of offbeat humor in the pursuit of knowledge… or something. In the service of jaded biologist Clarence (Robert Longstreet), the two colleagues display scientific incompetence and skill for deadpan in every moment. Filled with a charming awkwardness often reserved for Diablo Cody’s films, A Dim Valley takes viewers into the strange and hipster in this story of love, self-discovery, and – above all – quirkiness.
Forced together in the pursuit of research, Clarence, Ian, and Albert do not always make the best of roommates. Despite Albert’s annoyances, the three often find ways to push onward and collect the species needed for Clarence’s studies. Days of research and toking run together until Albert meets three mysterious backpackers: Iris, Rose, and Reed (Rosalie Lowe, Rachel McKeon, and Feathers Wise). Introducing the three muse-like women to his colleagues, Albert, Ian, and Clarence begin an expedition into their innermost desires without ever leaving the woods.
“…Albert, Ian, and Clarence begin an expedition into their innermost desires without ever leaving the woods.”
A Dim Valley is brimming with beginning-to-end quirkiness and deadpan comedy. From its opening credits of animated bugs to its lingering moments of blunt Wes Anderson-esque dialogue, the film is the essence of hipster-focused cinema (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing). Along with its IFC-worthy comedy, the movie boasts an excellent soundtrack. “The Bison Song,” performed by Robert Longstreet, is like a lost Iron & Wine classic and will have you searching Spotify the moment the song concludes.
However, a movie with such a particular audience in mind has its drawbacks. Despite moments of brilliance, A Dim Valley is a film that you have to be in the mood to watch. The overall style and delivery can be a very acquired taste. The movie has some moments of inconsistency in the tone and narrative. But, more than anything, it’s a film that moviegoers have to stew over for a bit. There is a lot of subtext at play throughout the film. Some scenes may even merit a rewatch or several to get the layers of humor or even just the narrative itself.
When the credits rolled on A Dim Valley, I had an immediate feeling of wanting to ponder the film and consider its place in the pantheon of quirky indie comedies. It’s a motion picture that may not always have you gasping for breath from laughter but will certainly remain in your memory for years to come. “The Bison Song” alone is worth the watch. But paired with the performances of the cast, it lends itself beautifully to the overall story. The film does require a very specific cinema pallet, but if you’ve ever found yourself wishing that Yorgos Lunthimos would be more whimsical or Wes Anderson would be less symmetrical, this is worth repeated watches.
A Dim Valley screened at the 2020 Montana International Film Festival.
"…the essence of hipster-focused cinema (I'm not saying that's a bad thing)."