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Sweetwater

Canadian Premiere
  • USA
  • 2013
  • 94 mins
  • DCP
  • English
Official Selection, Sundance 2013
Official Selection, Dallas International Film Festival 2013

“Superbly directed… the Miller brothers imaginatively stroke their cinematic brush across an intense but humorous film” – Trevor Groth, SUNDANCE

“The Old West is portrayed as a venal loony bin” – Todd McCarthy, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

In the soul-parched madness of 1880s New Mexico, former prostitute Sarah (January Jones) has done everything she can to move on from her past. Now in a married, loving relationship with Miguel (Eduardo Noriega), an honest farmer, she adheres to strict moral codes, in every way the “good girl” that society wants her to be. Unfortunately, much of society is rotten to the core, and she and Miguel find themselves in a violent, escalating confrontation with a self-declared prophet (a terrifying Jason Isaacs) who’s out to steal their land. Meanwhile, a radical and borderline insane sheriff (Ed Harris at the absolute top of his game) has ridden into town to bring justice to the community. It won’t come easy, if at all. This is a place easily whipped into religious fanaticism by opportunistic leaders, a land where people simply — and regularly — disappear. A blood triangle has formed, one that will be ripe with vigilante justice, corruption and murder.

Bursting with tension, violence and dramatic theatricality, SWEETWATER is one of the most eccentric and surprising Westerns to storm into cinema’s saloon in some time, owing as much to Toshiya Fujita and LADY SNOWBLOOD as it does to John Ford and Sergio Leone. Haunting, compelling and oddly, deadpan cartoonish, at once an empowering and revisionist feminist take on what is perhaps the most patriarchal of all cinematic genres while simultaneously reveling in its most lurid passages with the red-hot zeal of a soulful exploitation film, SWEETWATER is a work of fascinating paradoxes. In places, it presents female empowerment by way of male fantasy in the vein of the more subversive genre films of yesteryear. At other times, it engages startling moments of black humour in the midst of severity. Throughout, it tackles contemporary issues with a forceful immediacy that can easily have you forgetting that you’re watching a narrative set a century and a half ago.

January Jones is absolutely fearless here. Ed Harris turns in the downright strangest, most flamboyant and menacing turn of his career. Logan and Noah Miller (TOUCHING HOME) have made an uncompromisingly powerful film, sumptuously shot and directed with imagination and wit. It is certain to provoke audiences as it blazes its trail across cinemas and psyches worldwide.

— Mitch Davis

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