Posts Tagged ‘Trevor Hawkins’

“LOTAWANA” My rating: B (VOD on AppleTV, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Vudu)

90 minutes | No MPAA rating

How best to describe “Lotawana,” Trevor Hawkins’ low-budget, locally-made feature shot mostly in the Kansas City ‘burb of Lake Lotawana?

Maybe “Malick-lite.”

In myriad ways the film comes off as an homage to the idiosyncratic works of Terrence Malick, both in its offhand approach to narrative (like Malick, Hawkins seems to have shot lots of footage and then found his story in the editing room, almost as an afterthought) and in its cosmic/transcendental appreciation of the natural world around us.

The plot — to the extent that “Lotawana” has one — follows the relationship between Forrest (Todd Blubaugh, looking uncannily like folkie Eric Andersen as a young man) and Everly (Nicola Collie), two societal dropouts who find each other and fall in love.

Forrest lives on a sailboat on a Midwestern lake, going ashore mostly to ride his motorcycle at breakneck speed and to hike/camp in the Missouri woods. How this modern-day Thoreau can afford a boat and a bike with no employment is never explained (well-to-do parents?).

Everly’s past is just as vague. She mentions not getting along with her mother and she talks with a hard-to-pin-down accent (Maybe she’s a Brit. Or Australian).

Not much happens in the first half hour. Then Everly announces she’s pregnant. The couple argue, reconcile, plan for a baby with what meager resources they can muster, and undergo a tragedy that almost drives them apart.

In the film’s latter stages we find Everly coping with the emotional turmoil by burgling lakeside vacation homes. The closer she gets to being discovered, the more exciting it is for her. Forrest isn’t so sure. (There are echoes here of the young lover-criminals in Malick’s “Badlands.”)

But then conventional plotting isn’t on Hawkins’ agenda. Scenes don’t so much play in real time as fragment into film snippets; the dialogue is mostly small talk (certainly there are no big quotable speeches).

Serving as his own cinematographer Hawkins concentrates on natural moments — birds, insects, sunsets, fluttering leaves. Forrest and Everly seem to view themselves as unspoiled, semi-civilized inhabitants of this idyllic world.

Happily the movie doesn’t swallow that story without a bit of chewing. Hawkins clearly recognizes the delusional nature of his characters. Why else would he name Forrest’s boat Lorelei after the mythological siren who lures sailors to their doom?

And then there’s the fact that Forrest and Everly, despite their naive ambition to achieve absolute freedom, are bobbing in a relatively small body of water from which they cannot escape.

Some viewers will be seduced by the film’s poetic evocations; others will conclude that the ship is awash with pretentions.

I found myself torn between those two extremes, simultaneously fascinated by Hawkins’ atypical storytelling and visual panache and mildly irritated by the film’s refusal to give us any sort of backstory that would tell us how our protagonists came to be the people they are.

Hawkins — who has nearly 30 shorts under his belt, many of them in the travel/nature genre — shot the film with a crew of only a dozen (most of them friends and family members) and financed the production by mortgaging his house on Lake Lotawana. And he simultaneously produced “At the Helm, the Making of Lotawana,” a documentary about the struggle to complete the film.

| Robert W. Butler


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