Family secrets, simmering anger, and reporessed sexual desires vividly capture life in the Deep South. Griffith, a morose young man, orphaned as a child, dreams of leaving home but feels tied down by his cousin (who is al... more »so his lover) and his invalid aunt. When a mysterious man appears to rent the family cottage, Griffith is tantalized with the possibility of escape and homoerotic fulfillment.« less
"As a straight male who has enjoyed the campy work of horror actress Karen Black for several years, I purchased this film simply to watch her performance as the emotionally troubled guardian/aunt of the young man whose story is told in "Red Dirt." In a role that I at first thought more suitable for Jessica Lange, Karen Black turned in an Oscar-caliber performance. I was utterly stunned by the breadth and depth that she brought to the complex character she played.As I sat in front of my TV set, I suddenly found I was no longer watching the movie with the sole intention of focusing on Ms. Black. I discovered I was completely engrossed in this deeply moving tale about a young man who, without fully understanding why, is trying to find himself a place in the world where he can find love, inner peace and fulfillment. He longs to leave the red dirt farm he shares with his aunt, believing the key to his heart's desires lies elsewhere. Even the sexual relationship he is carrying on with his female cousin no longer fills the void gnawing at him.Shortly after the young man posts a "For Rent" sign for a adjoining guest house on the property, a drifter comes along and moves in. Having no male figures in his life, the young man quickly forms a friendship with the stranger. We learn that the stranger is a free-spirited man who has uprooted his own life in order to find the very things that our young hero yearns for. This commonality allows the two men to become best friends.Soon, the two men talk about leaving the farm to explore the "world beyond the farm" together. But the young man is conflicted by thoughts of leaving his aunt alone and his cousin behind.His aunt is somewhat dismayed that her nephew would form such a close bond with the stranger so quickly, but she does not wish to hold him back. His cousin, on the other hand, is first to suspect that the young man's attraction toward the stranger goes beyond that of "best friends." When she brings this to his attention, he is just as shocked and dismayed.What follows, I will not reveal here. But I will admit, with a red face, that I found myself rooting for the two men to openly acknowledge their love for each other. I have never felt comfortable watching two men kiss, but I was hoping they would eventually--even though it would have made me more comfortable to believe the men's relationship was nothing more than a deeply loving friendship between two people who happened to be of the same sex.Despite my narrow-mindedness, this film did not make me squirm in my seat. Rather, I was deeply touched and, on some level, I learned a powerful lesson: Love, when it is real, truly should have no boundaries.Profound and multi-layered story-telling at its finest. The DVD presentation is flawless in video and sound."
Different, subtle, with an indie flair
Dennis! | Washington, DC USA | 07/17/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'll admit that I only watched this movie when Amazon marketed it to me (probably because I've bought a gay-themed movie sometime within the past decade). But then, I was glad that it was brought to my attention."Red Dirt" escaped my radar. Was it even released in the mainstream? Probably not "big screen," but was it even released in indie houses? Anyway, this movie tells the tale of Griffith, who seems to amble about aimlessly through life with some sense of obligation toward his aunt and no way to release his sexual urges except with his only-too-willing cousin. Why do southern-themed movies always seem to be so steeped in social obligation and the concomitant suffocation and angst?The wonderful scenery and excellent directing job, and empathetic characters (some outstanding, though not superb, acting talent) truly bring you into a mythical world somewhere in the south (I forget where). The story line is somewhere crossed between "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "The Lords of Discipline": drifter (Lee Todd) comes by and "befriends" Griffith, who is so mired in his tragic existence on the family farm that it's difficult to tell if his relationship with Lee Todd is based on sheer boredom with his own existence than with some true feeling underlying homosexual tension, as we're led to believe.As far as a "gay interest" film (kinda), though, this film is refreshing. Gay politics and stereotypes do not play into the film at all. The characters are remarkably empathetic, and you somehow feel Griffith's pain. The line is blurred, however, between the "male bonding friendship" between the two men and homosexual love, a distinction the movie would have done well to explore. Could these two men not have formed a tight, close friendship -- even loved each other -- without being "in love"?I suppose the end of the film, therefore, is not only reasonable, but a better resolution than if the two had ridden off into the sunset holding hands. Maybe the two will cross paths again at some other point in time. But maybe not.The movie is definitely worth the viewing, but not unless you're willing to invest some thought and even some heart."
A First Film's Imbalances, but Most Romantic Kiss Ever
Dennis! | 01/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is Purvis's first film, and it benefits and suffers from typical first-film issues: great attention to cinematography, colors, scenery, etc., some difficulty in plot and character development and pacing. This is an indie in the truest sense. I think, however, it merrits viewing.The story focuses on a young man and his female cousin, both the last two of their generation stuck in a small, rural Southern town. The red dirt of the title is a prominent thematic in both the soil of the land and even the tint to the cousin's hair. Out of pure drugery and directionlessness, the two cousins engage in a sexual relationship devoid of any passion--a metaphor for their entire condition in this small town.The young man lives with his aunt who has suffered from mental illness ever since the death of his parents, and an important side story examines the aunt's emergence from mental illness to greater participation in the world.Eventually, an attractive stranger shows up to rent the cottage in back of the house, played by very attractive Walt Goggins. The stranger and the young man become fast friends, having much in common and sharing a need for "direction." The development of this relationship should have been the focus of the plot, but Purvis glosses over how and why the friendship takes on the intensity that it is.In short, the two men are falling in love--but it takes a while to get to the point where they are clear that that is happening to them. When it finally does--watch out! Their kiss is the most romantic kiss in cinema I have seen, gay or straight. it is not a sloppy, sexual kiss at all--it is a meaningful, sensual kiss that is at once an act of coming-out, an act of defiance, and act of self-preservation, and an act of intense love. I have to say that the sloth of the rest of the movie was truly worth it to appreciate this particular moment.This is a fine first showing from Purvis, and I would welcome a remake of this particular film one day (with the same cast) with greater attention to pacing and focused, salient plot and character development.The movie is worth seeing especially if you are a film buff or are interested in watching the evolution of a director's career. I expect Purvis will blossom into a major player."
Subtle, slow, and tragically sweet
kkirstein | Monroe, WA United States | 10/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This story is about friendship between two young men that evolves into love without any pushing or prodding. It occurs so naturally that, for a while, one of the guys is able to deny that it has happened at all. But it has.At the start of this movie, you wonder where it is going. But the wait is worth the time and effort because the characters are beautifully developed. Karen Black is amazing. She alone is worth seeing this movie. The character of Emily also emerges nicely throughout the film.But it is the friendship between Griffith and Lee that is the focus of this film. As many others have said, this is not a `gay' film. The friendship emerges naturally and, toward the end of the film, both men realize that is has progressed beyond a friendship (although Lee knows it first). The setting is a tiny, confined southern town where the characters are further confined by the demands of their own lives. Emily and Griffith use each other as a reason to stay until the reason no longer exists. Griffith plans to leave with Lee but the realization that their friendship has progressed beyond friendship sends him into a crisis of sexual identity and he drives Lee away. In the end, Emily leaves, Lee returns and the story winds down to a difficult but necessary conclusion.The only real complaint I have about this movie that sometimes the volume of the score drowns out the dialog. It is sometimes difficult to hear what the characters are saying. One such instance is a rather sweet scene between Lee and Griffith where you miss what Lee is saying just before he leaves. Too bad to have missed that.I highly recommend this film but give it time. It grows on you as it goes."
Impressive and moving film making
Todd C. Spears | Valley Village, CA United States | 10/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story of a young man and his coming of age - but not in the usual sense. The main character, Griffith, comes to know who he is and what his place in the world is. While the film is visually compelling it is also well written with realistic characters. The story opens with Griffith and his cousin Emily both dreaming of different paths in their lives. He longs to escape the small town they grew up in and she can't ever see herself ever leaving. Just under the surface there's a sense of desperation in Griffith and Emily - but it takes the arrival of a stranger to bring this out. Karen Black plays Griffith's invalid aunt - a woman haunted by her hidden past and her agoraphobia. As the story develops, the film manages to portray an wonderfully uneasy balance that most films lack - the overall sense of isolation and need to escape with the soul deep bond between Griffith and the land. The ending is anything but pat, leaving open the paths the characters will walk - but is very moving. By the end of the film, I really felt as if these were real people with real problems - not just hollywood cardboard cutouts. I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend "Red Dirt" as a film that will stand up to the test of time."