Cowriter Ed Norton plays a cowboy named Harlan who meets a teen girl named Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood) that invites him to the beach. Harlan accepts the offer and their lives are forever changed. The idea of a relationship between a teen and a 30 year old will probably turn most off of this film right away. That is fine...the goal of this film is to echo westerns in a new age. The age difference in the days of the old west wasn't such a big deal and after awhile I stopped thinking about it.
Obviously, the age difference does make a difference to her father played by the always reliable David Morse. Morse gradually finds his daughter rebeling against his rule and blames it on Harlan. The movie takes a dark turn 80 minutes in that changes things around very quickly. It makes sense, but it doesn't make you feel the same magical way it did before. Reality has shifted from the classic style to reflect the current times.
A lot has to be said for writer/director David Jacobson. The man is very talented in his shots and pacing. I thinking pacing is one of the most underrated aspects of a good film. The directors that do it well consistently make good films. This one does have some lingering scenes, but it all seems to fit the dreamlike atmosphere created by the music. The music consists mostly of songs by Peter Salett and Mazzy Star. It is absolutely haunting when each piece of music comes on...I found myself thinking of the trippy visions of Koester and Sparklehorse. That combined with the cinematography left me thinking of another brilliant filmmaker, David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls).
In a way, Down in the Valley is a beautiful love story and in another its a sad message about our society. Still it challenges the way we view things - people, life in general, and love.
* Down in the Valley was my best film of 2006