Movie Review: 'Montana Story'

By: 
John Thomas

Cal (Owen Teogue), is the first to arrive at the sprawling Montana ranch he once passionately loved. Everything appears the same on the outside, but there is major change – his dad is bedridden in a coma. Valentina (Kimberly Guerrero) still manages the home and cooks meals, but as a result of a major stroke, Cal’s father is unresponsive requiring an addition to the household – his caregiver, Ace (Gilbert Owur).

After being introduced, Ace asks Cal if he’d like to see his father. Cal replies, “No, I’ll do it later, I’m going upstairs to unpack and then walk around outside a bit.”

Not expecting to see his older estranged half-sister, Cal begins delving into his father’s business affairs. The bank informs Cal that in spite of having been a successful attorney, his father is strapped for money. His medical and living expenses have drained his accounts to the point that selling his assets is imperative.

Cal begins by parking his late mother’s car by the side of a road and placing a “for sale” sign in the window. A more troubling problem, however, is dealing with Mr. T, a 25-year-old horse born the same year as Cal’s sister. After much deliberation and torment, he agrees to having the horse put down.

Gazing at the peaceful landscape while contemplating Mr. T’s future, Cal’s thoughts are  interrupted by the arrival of a car that stops long enough for its passenger to exit.

Cal’s sister Erin (Haley Lu Richardson) has arrived. The meeting between brother and sister is as chilly as are the plains in winter – not even a handshake is shared. Erin informs Cal that she is only here to see her estranged father just one more time – she’s returning to New York on a flight later that evening. Erin does, however, give Valentina a warm embrace.

Having not spoken to one another since they fled the ranch seven years ago, Cal is curious to know how Erin knew of their father’s stroke and imminent demise. She tells him that over the years she has remained in close contact with Valentina but not with him.

After being introduced to Ace and turning down a quick visit to her father, she returns to her old room and then tours  the ranch. On the tour she and Cal finally speak.

He mentions the financial crisis facing their father and what he has planned for Mr. T. She dashes to the barn where the horse has stood in his stall for the past seven years. She grabs a brush and begins grooming Mr. T – then, finding a lead, takes him for a walk.

Erin is not concerned with her father’s fate but is deeply concerned for that of the horse. She decides to delay her departure for New York. Through Valentin’s coaxing and Ace’s philosophical musings, Cal and Erin begin to communicate and reminisce. They eventually discuss the reasons behind their hasty departure from the ranch years ago.

The death of Mr. T’s companion horse in the neighboring stall, figured significantly in the brother and sister’s decision to leave. Cal now feels he has the opportunity to correct these past negative events and put everyone on a more positive path for their future.

Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel (Credits: What Masie Knew, Uncertainty), Montana Story runs 114 Minutes and is a “should see” for a beautifully nuanced story set against the wide-open, sprawling background of rural Montana.

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