In “Frybread Face and Me,” Benny Lovell is probably some years away from the threshold of 17, but the 12-year-vintage Indian youngster has a ardour for Fleetwood Mac. It’s his fondness for the band, its witchy vocalist Stevie Nicks in addition to for dolls (“motion figures,” he corrects) that has his dad and mom sending him from San Diego to his maternal grandmother at the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. But earlier than he receives on the bus headed east, person Benny in voice-over offers a caveat: “If you observed no person does dysfunction like Fleetwood Mac, then you haven’t met my own family.” It’s 1990 and a summer time that to begin with smacks of exile and punishment becomes one among discovery — self-discovery to make sure, however also cultural and familial.Keir Tallman stars as Benny, the “Me” of author-director Billy Luther’s heat debut narrative characteristic. Luther, of the Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo Laguna nations, has made feature documentaries. “Frybread Face and Me” — which premiered at SXSW — is his affable and insightful foray into fiction storytelling.
Benny’s wild-toddler Aunt Lucy (Kahara Hodges) picks him up at the Winslow bus depot and drives him over the 2-lane blacktops and dusty roads to his grandmother’s trailer on a flat and extensive expanse at the Navajo Nation. (The land gets its honest and deserved share of close-ups.) Lucy tells Benny to ignore his uncle Marvin who lives in a shed close to the trailer. “He’s 1/2 Hopi,” she says. It’s just one of the film’s tossed off quips that declares that Luther made his movie to speak to Indian audiences first.
Soon sufficient, any other youngster arrives, dragging a black plastic bag of belongings in tow. “Frybread Face” is the none-too-type nickname Benny’s cousin Dawn has been given through the adults. She’s dropped off via her mom, who wheels away into the dusk with out much rite. Although she’s 10, she’s bigger and savvier than Benny. She consists of a shabby doll whose head maintains tumbling off. She named it Jeff Bridges in tribute to the actor’s “Starman” individual.
Charley Hogan is deeply watchable as Benny’s pudgy cousin and guide. Fry knows a lot greater than she lets on — and she we could on plenty. When Benny boasts that “Mick Fleetwood is the nice drummer ever,” she replies “genuinely you’ve never been to a pow-wow before.” After getting to know that Benny is from San Diego, she christens her cuz “Shamu” for the Sea World attraction.
Navajo weaver Sarah Natani portrays Grandmother, a regular and hushed pressure. Because Grandmother increases sheep, the target audience gets glimpses of the weaving art shape from start to beautiful finish. She presents the high barren region sanctuary children are despatched to while their mother and father’ lives are teetering or already in a shambles. A specifically ouchy and believable confrontation finds the cousins drawing blood, emotionally. Fry tells Benny that the reason he’s at the rez is due to the fact his dad and mom are divorcing. In retaliation, he blurts out news of her father’s incarceration.Martin Sensmeier performs Marvin, the handsome however bullying uncle. “Are you a cowgirl or cowboy?” he asks Benny via way of advent. And then warns him to by no means pass near the corrugated aluminum and lumber shed. To his credit score, the filmmaker is in no hurry to present us motives to love him — even though we are able to accumulate that some thing’s husbanded his meanness. A bull-riding accident doesn’t lots soften him; it simply makes him a little much less bodily unpredictable.
In the film’s narrative voiceover, the older Benny in no way takes on a superior tone to his younger self.
Family disorder is not unusual enough fodder for intimate indie dramas, however it’s seldom focused this low-key lovingly amid an American Indian circle of relatives. (Taika Waititi, co-writer of FX’s “Reservation Dogs,” is the govt director.) As is the manner with many a adolescence summer apart from the parents, not a lot and the entirety happens. Sheep pass missing and get found. A friendship is solid. Feelings are hurt and then mended just like the fences across the sheep enclosure.