A young actress and an older Mexican man both venture to Del Rio, Texas for the first time. The actress is there to shoot a micro-budget horror flick by a perennially absent director, a gig she got by posting Youtube videos about her craft and her penchant for reading tarot cards. The man is there for some sort of criminal endeavor, one which becomes more obvious as time goes on. Problem is, his contacts are nowhere to be found, and he’s stuck passing his time with local activities like karaoke and shopping.
Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia’s movie is basically a collection of scenes depicting these two passing time in Del Rio, fighting off their boredom and insecurity while vaguely hoping for a positive outcome to their respective situations. As a portrait of the town, which the directors claimed was a big motivation for making the movie, it’s something of a success; using largely real-life denizens and personalities from the area, Attieh and Garcia do a great job of evoking what it would be like to live there, or at least visit for as long as the two leads do.
Also, mention must be made of Sarah Swinwood’s performance as the amateur actress. In a role partially modeled after her own persona (the directors indeed “discovered” her via her Youtube channel), Swinwood does some really honest, brave work as the wannabe starlet, desperately going along with the ramshackle production despite her misgivings and the fact that she’s never even met the film’s director. There’s a sad, lost quality to her performance that is familiar to anyone who’s ever worked with actors trying to make an impression and break through to the industry. She creates a unique, memorable character out of very little material, and the movie would have been better off simply focusing on her.
The film claims that it’s “based on a true story,” and half of it is. The directors really did venture to Del Rio to help out on a dinky horror movie, only to find that its director was a no-show and the budget was quite literally non-existent. Thus, the section about the production of a similar horror film contains more truth than the “crime” half. Not to say its perfect, or even particularly engaging; the long, loose scenes of Swinwood trying to perform on camera or dealing with her deep insecurity in her motel room often end up grating and redundant. But at least it all comes from somewhere honest and real. That much can’t be said about the other half.
There’s absolutely nothing redeeming about the pseudo-BLAST OF SILENCE “criminal waiting for his marching orders” half of the film. Nothing at all. Not one interesting moment, not one clever spin on the old noir archetypes clearly being emulated, just an old guy rambling around this town aimlessly while narrating (from beyond the grave) about how he never made it out of Del Rio. Example: “I stayed in and drank beer. Had I known I was going to die in two days, I might’ve gone out.” His story never intersects with the actress’ in any meaningful way, and it’s a non-starter of plotline that not only lacks anything of substance, but ends up detracting from the stronger, richer side of the film.
I applaud Attieh and Garcia for their ambitious, low-key approach to this film, but it’s so nonchalant that it ends up feeling like nothing’s there. There’s not enough going on to give it the kind of watchability of similarly drawn-out stuff like some of Jim Jarmusch’s slower films, and the intentional “nothing ever happens” plotting ends up backfiring and sinking the film. Aside from Swinwood’s lived-in performance and a great use of the town of Del Rio, I’m sorry to say that I found nothing else here to make this film worth recommending.