Lee (Bethany Anne Lind) has killed a man in her auto shop. With next to no clear context, we watch her wrap the body in plastic, bundle him into his own car, and drive to a local lake. She tosses the weapon – a wrench – and sizes up the corpse. His phone rings – his family – and her momentary, quite understandable pang of guilt sets us off.

A no-budget pulp crime thriller, Blood on Her Name eschews set piece-driven structuring in favour of an emotional depth that both grounds things and foments a genuinely clenched tension. Director Matthew Pope shows an impressive facility with place, time and character that gives this dime-novel synopsis a specificity, and a sense of the real.

This is reminiscent more of dirty, 16mm industry’s-edge hustles from the 1960s and early ‘70s than of some film-school-wunderkind product. Blood on Her Name constructs, and seems to react to, a resolutely working-class milieu: were the filmmakers not so sensitive to the reality of present-day America, and so careful to find the truth in archetypes (much of the production design feels appropriately documentarian), it would be hard to care. But Lee is so well drawn by Lind, and her perspective so centralised in both theme and form, that even as we spiral towards tiring obligations to “ramp up” and over-exposit certain details the film remains compelling. This is ultimately about meaningless conflict between ethical people in straitened circumstances, and the subtle construction of this is admirable.

As in Jeremy Saulnier’s similarly-pitched Blue Ruin, which possessed both a tight sense of genre and a real commitment to subject, and to the absurdity of “real” people in pulpy circumstances, parts of the climax succumb to obligation. In any case, Blood on Her Name is a surprisingly fresh and empathetic look at mayhem in small-town America.      



CAST: Bethany Anne Lind, Will Patton, Elizabeth Röhm, Jared Ivers, Jimmy Gonzales

DIRECTOR: Matthew Pope

WRITERS: Matthew Pope, Don M. Thompson

SYNOPSIS: A woman’s panicked decision to cover up an accidental killing spins out of control when her conscience demands she return the dead man’s body to his family.