Talented siblings Jeff Nichols (director of Mud, Midnight Special, and Loving) and Ben Nichols (lead guitarist for the ‘country-punk rock’ band Lucero) have teamed up with a stellar cast and cracking song to create an atmospheric, ambiguous piece that sit somewhere between a short film and music video. ‘Long Way Back Home’ sees Nichols the director assembling a fine cast (led by his longtime collaborator Michael Shannon) and brings his signature sympathy for outcasts to the tale of a man with a checkered past searching for his younger brothers. Meanwhile, Nichols – the musician – contributes a folksy guitar line with a dark bite, adding a melancholy and restlessness to song and story.
The piece is a mere seven and a half minutes long, but within this time it sketches out a plot, relationships, and some morally grey motives. Shannon’s restless performance and piercing eyes provide the piece’s emotional core. The song, cinematography, and performances all serve each other and take primacy at different points to best serve the narrative. This film does not, however, manage a clean conclusion. This is not necessarily a detriment – the unsettled mood and naturalistic performances carry the piece – but it leaves room for expansion.
In an interview with Vulture, Jeff Nichols states that he would ‘100 percent’ make a film exploring the characters and situations shown in these seven minutes. Judging from this short, it is almost certain that this film would be chilling, beautiful, and very welcome; however, the current piece’s open-end nature lends a wistful moral ambiguity, detracting nothing from its enjoyability.
While a Nichols brothers collaboration seems inevitable in hindsight, this is a short but powerful addition to the ranks of entertainment industry family projects. Director and musician work on the same frequency to produce a disquieting character study that haunts viewers long after the final cut to black.
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CAST: Michael Shannon, Scoot McNairy, Garrett Hedlund, and Paul Sparks
DIRECTOR: Jeff Nichols
WRITERS: Jeff Nichols (inspired by the Lucero song “Long Way Back Home”)
PRODUCERS: Sarah Green, Erin Freeman, BR2 Productions
SYNOPSIS: A man with a checkered past and shady motives shows up on the backroads of Memphis in search of his younger brothers