Film Review – Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)

Title – Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)

Director – RaMell Ross (feature debut)

Cast – Latrenda ‘Boosie’ Ash, Quincy Bryant, Daniel Collins

Plot – A documentary that started in 2009 and was filmed over numerous years, RaMell Ross shines a light on a collection of black lives in the Hale County community in Alabama.

“How do we not frame someone?”

Review by Eddie on 10/10/2019

It would be fair to describe Alabama based filmmaker/teacher RaMell Ross’s Oscar nominated documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening as an dreamlike experience.

Feeling absolutely cut from the same cloth as some of Terrence Malick’s most memorable and eye capturing tapestry’s, Hale County chooses to ignore any type of typical narrative or documentary structure as Ross follows a collection of real life characters across a long standing period of time, as Ross shines a light on modern day lives of black American’s in the famous American state.

No doubt inspired by Malick’s visionary filmmaking techniques and golden age filmmakers James Agee and Walker Evans, who shot footage of the area in the 1930’s to document the depression and poverty that existed in the community, Ross embedded himself with the local Hale County residents and decides too not ask the hard questions of the people he meets or the issues he shines a light on but instead allows his imagery and camera to do the talking.

If there is a slight narrative driver of the film it’s in the documentation of school students Quincy Bryant and Daniel Collins, but these two figures are really just passengers in Ross’s journey as their lives change and evolve before our very eyes but with very little thorough or deep analysis this style has a detrimental emotional effect on viewers as we are never allowed to dive into their minds or lives completely as Ross keeps us at arm’s length throughout.

It’s an unfortunate aspect of the film, as Hale County feels entirely like an art-house experiment, not so much an informative or constructive experience, even if the fly on the wall like aspect of proceedings allows us to catch raw and intimate glimpses into the people and the land that make Hale County the place it is today.

There are beautiful moments scattered across Hale County’s run-time such as a an early morning sunrise across a dew covered paddock or a star strewn nightscape shot through the quiet surrounds of a local basketball court but all the fine moments captured forever by Ross can’t compensate for the lack of a hook to keep us emotionally present in the film, for as it stands we are but willing passengers up for a unique look at a time and place filled with love, loss and future hope.

Final Say –

Some stunning shots and intimately captured moments help make Hale County This Morning, This Evening an eminently watchable documentary but its dearth of a real story or characters we can get to know make it a pleasing but forgettable experience.

3 furniture removalists out of 5

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