America, early twentieth century, Oklahoma, troubled territories. Old Henry (Tim Blake Nelson) and his sixteen-year-old son White (Gavin Lewis) live on a lonely farm where they grow vegetables, raise pigs, and so on. Ten years ago, Henry lost his wife Mary – she died of tuberculosis – and White lost his mother.
White really does not like living on a farm and doing subsistence farming, but his father keeps him very strict, and White has no choice but to help his father. Mary’s brother El (Tracey Adkins) visits occasionally and helps Henry with his work. White asks his father to somehow let him go hunting with Al, but Henry is categorically against his son taking up arms.
Once a horse without a rider and with a bloody saddle came across their farm. Henry went in search of a rider, and after a while he really found a wounded man lying on the ground, unconscious. Not far from the man lay a bag full of money and a revolver.
Henry’s first impulse was to leave this place immediately, leaving the wounded man and the bag: Henry knew well that if there was a bag of money, then there would always be contenders for its contents, and these contenders would certainly be well armed. Nevertheless, he nevertheless put the wounded man on a horse and took the bag with the weapon.
And indeed, the very next day, three people on horseback showed up at his farm. The Chief introduced himself as Sheriff Ketchum (Stephen Dorf) of Woods County and said they were looking for a fugitive named Curry (Scott Hayes).
Henry replied that he had not met any Curry. The sheriff pretended to believe, and, after thinly veiled threats, the aliens left.
At the same time, Henry was well aware that they would not leave his farm alone. Besides, he needed to deal with Curry to find out who he even was.
I really like the actor Tim Blake Nelson: with his very specific appearance of a redneck alcoholic, Tim is a great actor. I saw him in the black humor crime comedy Velcro where he played one of the two clown raiders, he recently did a great job as Buster Scruggs in the Coen Brothers movie The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, so when I found out he was starring in the new movie, I decided to watch this movie.
The name of the director, Potsy Ponchiroli, was not familiar to me, and I decided to see what else he had made. It turned out that really nothing – only one unknown film, released immediately on video. He also executive produced Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, which failed even among Kevin Smith fans.
And now – the picture “Old Henry”, which received, albeit a small one (Fanheart3 association award – special mention), but an award at the Venice Film Festival 2021.
This is a pure western, the action of which unfolds quite slowly. The picture is not too dynamic – it is more contemplative, and the decisive confrontation takes place almost only in the finale.
I must say that the director and cameraman very skillfully use the nature of the place where all this was filmed: despite the beggarly atmosphere and the obvious depressiveness of Henry’s farm, the hills, fields and forests surrounding the farm are beautiful and served very effectively. Plus – the music is still well chosen here (composer – Jordan Lehning).
Tim Blake Nelson has a very strong role. A lean, elderly farmer of a filthy appearance with an always screwed up damaged eye – everything in the behavior of this man shows that he is not at all simple, and that he certainly has not been a farmer all his life.
It is also seen that Henry does not experience any trepidation in front of the armed men who came for Curry and money: he carefully studies them and it is clear that Henry is ready to act at any moment.
I expected Tim Blake Nelson to do a good job in this role, and he did not disappoint me at all – Henry turned out great.
Also good is Stephen Dorf as Sheriff Ketchum. Cold-blooded, dangerous, extremely cruel, talking with ostentatious friendliness – a cool character. I really liked Dorf in the third “True Detective”, but Mahershala Ali had the main role there. Here he also does not have the main role, but Dorf’s main antagonist turned out to be excellent.
But Gavin Lewis as White – in my opinion, a clear miscasting. No, Lewis did everything he could, but he himself has a type – a kind of cherub from a comedy series about schoolchildren: well, what kind of farmer’s son is he on a half-poor farm – one laugh? Why it was impossible to choose an actor more suitable for the type – I don’t know, in this case it somewhat spoiled the impression.
Scott Hayes as the wounded Curry – I liked it, a worthy character. Curry in Henry’s house quickly recovered and began to play a fairly prominent role in what was happening.
A certain slowness and contemplation of the picture did not irritate me, on the contrary – it all worked well in contrast with a sharp increase in the dynamics of what is happening towards the end. The final battle (almost from the very beginning of the film it was clear that the main plot is Henry’s confrontation with the Ketchum detachment) is staged quite effectively, there are also some plot twists in the picture, which, perhaps, someone will guess, but as for me – It’s not about twists at all.
It’s all about how it’s filmed and how it’s played. In my opinion, filmed and played very well, I liked it.
PS On the Web I come across with two United Statesn-speaking voiceovers – from FocusX and from Pazl Voice. Both are made very decently, it is quite possible to watch.
Old Henry / Old Henry review
Director: Potsi Ponchiroli Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Scott Hayes, Gavin Lewis, Tracey Adkins, Stephen Dorff, Maximino Arsignega, Brad Carter, Kent Shelton, Richard Speight Jr.
Western, USA, 2021, 99 min.