Published Jul 01, 2003The final installment of a trilogy on the heartland of America (Twin Falls, Idaho, 1999, Jackpot, 2001) for Minneapolis brothers Mark and Michael Polish, Northfork stars a solid cast as community members involved in a relocation project caused by a recently built hydro-electric dam that's set to drown the town of Northfork. When some of the remaining citizens are unwilling or unable to leave, the government gathers a local evacuation committee (James Woods, etc.) to visit and encourage stragglers to move on to a brighter future, complete with a state gift of "angel wings."
But while the film's visual realism is anchored by natural winter-frosted Montana landscapes and a stunning ark constructed by the Mark and Michael's father, Del, all filtered through a beautifully limited grey-scale palette, the story begins to unravel with the fever dreams of Irving, a sick young child under Father Harlan's (Nick Nolte) care. Played with enough naïve intensity by newcomer Duel Farnes to somehow match the measured performances of the angels (Daryl Hannah, Anthony Edwards, Robin Sachs, Ben Foster) in his dreams, this b-story soon begins to awkwardly consume the rest of the film. Exchanging the strong personal significance of the loss of a home for pseudo-intellectual religious banter and surreal inanities via a side story ostensibly about a group of dysfunctional angels stuck on earth may fulfill what the Polish brothers call their goal of magical realism, but it does not, however, mesh with the film's overall tone.
Originally written over eight years ago, before the other two films in their trilogy, Northfork is a mixed bag of great performances and memorable visuals that lacks any real inherent momentum, even with a flood on its way. Here's to hoping it's at least the impetus for Michael and Mark Polish to finally move on and explore new cinematic terrain. (Paramount)