Taking place during the year from one Halloween and the next, October Country is the haunting tale of co-director Donal Mosher's immediate family -- at least of those who still reside in rural Mohawk Valley, New York, the Mosher clan's ancestral turf. They are a collection of complex, emotionally compelling individuals who are trapped in an intergenerational cycle of spousal and child abuse, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, debilitating depression and other syndromes that haunt them like ghosts.
It's A Family Affair
Meet The Moshers: matriarch Dottie, her husband Don, their drug-addicted daughter Donna who has two daughters, preteen Desi and teenage Daneal, who is the unwed welfare mom of a newborn daughter. Additionally, there is Don's estranged sister, Denise, who considers ghosts, gerbils and unicorns to be her best friends, and Chris, a young man who successfully escaped the foster care system to live with the Moshers, but can't escape his self-defeating addiction to shoplifting. This is a fascinating cast of characters and, looking right past the camera, they bravely bear their opinions and innermost thoughts directly to you. The intense intimacy of their honesty is staggering.
The Filmmaker's Presence
Donal, who is Dottie and Don's eldest son, and the older brother of Donna, never appears in the film. But you do feel his presence and that of co-director Michael Palmieri in the exquisitely sensitive way in which the family's story is framed, photographed and edited. Although they never use voice of God narration or graphics to explain events, nor do they make explicit statements, the filmmakers' sensibilities and compassion are palpable. Creating a carefully structured and impressionistic pastiche of revealing interviews, family discussions and incidental environmental shots of black crows flying across the screen, naked white tree branches standing out against the night sky like skeletons, Halloween goblins and other such images, they lead us through the Moshers' mental landscape, a millieu of family secrets, personal fears and patterns of denial that they are trying to escape.
Haunting Images and a Gothic State of Mind
From the film's opening shot of the local cemetery where wind whips fallen autumn foliage across the rocky ground and around gravestones and tree trunks, and Dottie recalls in voice over that the minister had to abort her father's funeral sermon because it was too windy ("Same thing with mother," she says. "They were fighting even in death."), October Country is an intimate true life family drama that quietly delivers the psychological impact of a classic Gothic tale. It grabs you at the beginning, won't let go until the end, and leaves you with haunting images. It is also a film that, through it's specifics, calls forth consideration the economic and social conditions and concerns that run rampant across the nation. Like so many of America's white working poor, the Moshers have limited opportunities to improve their lot. Their struggle to go so gives them everyman proportions, and it's impossible not to root for young Desi, whose self-awareness far surpasses that of most girls her age, to quell her self-doubts and resentments, tap into her ambition and avoid the abusive relationships and teen pregnancies that have pretty much enslaved the elder women in her family.
October Country is a film you must see.
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- Title: October Country
- Directors: Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri
- Thestrical Release Date: 2010, festival circuit and IFC Center
- DVD Release Date: October 22, 2010
- Running Time: 80 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Country: USA
- Locations: New York State
- Language: English
- Production Company: Wishbone Films
- Distribution Company: (DVD) Carnivalesque Films
- Official Website