The Scent of Rain and Lightning Review

The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a 2018 drama about a young woman who learns her parents’ killer has been released from jail, forcing her to revisit old wounds while discovering the destructive power of hate.

A movie like The Scent of Rain and Lightning makes you appreciate the spaces between the words. The rustle of a grove of leaves. The race of sunlight shimmering through thin tree boughs. A herd of dusty cows. Or a child weeping at the casket of her mother. Director Blake Robbins is as much interested in the world existing unaware of the characters of this story as he is in the weighty words they speak, and while it drifts into places sometimes hard to come back from, it is nonetheless a dark and troubling journey.

Jody Linder (Maika Monroe) lost her parents when she was just a girl, the two of them brutally murdered, a man named Billy (Brad Carter) charged and sent to prison for the crime. Twelve years later he is released, his sentence commuted, returning to town angry and fueled by a long festering rage. Jody seeks him out, wanting to face the man who robbed her of her family, and sees a monster in his eyes, but as she digs into the past, discovers that things she was told as a child are not the same as what she learns as an adult. She slowly begins to suspect the wrong man was put in jail, however her past is one shrouded in darkness and the truth is a burden she might not be ready to handle.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a movie about questions, usually ones the audience is asking. As the cast of characters expand, so do the threads that slowly unravel. We shift between two timelines, the present where Jody pokes around the family and neighbors looking for clues, and the past, leading up to the moment Jody’s mother Laurie (Maggie Grace) and father Hugh (Justin Chatwin) are killed. The mystery hinges on the manner of their deaths and why each were done differently as Jody comes to be consumed by her quest, and actions in the past connect to the present. 

This is Robbins’ second feature film, having a long career in front of the camera. His work here is patient, reserved, and exploratory, adapting Nancy Pickard‘s novel of the same name. He pulls away from characters and dances his lens over a flicker of light in a curtain or lingers in a shot of a sunlit woman working at kitchen counter. What these breaks do is separate the beauty from the malice, reminding us that as we move ever closer to tragedy, there is warmth and grace lingering between the madness of men.

Performances all around are strong. Grace is particularly inspiring, growing out of so many roles that seem to have narrowly defined her career. Laurie is a complex woman and Grace sinks into the weight of it with great effect. Monroe is also good, as is Will Patton, the patriarch of the family. Carter has limited screen time but walks a very thin line, giving Billy a convincing rawness.

That’s the thing about The Scent of Rain and Lightning, it’s a mystery by definition but is much more a study of a family in disarray. It’s rough. It’s mean. It’s jarring, and yet eerily beguiling. It has its flaws, with its twists in timelines sometimes mangled, but what emerges is a haunting little film with genuine impact, its secrets harrowing.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning Review

Movie description: THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTNING IS A 2018 DRAMA ABOUT A YOUNG WOMAN WHO LEARNS HER PARENTS' KILLER HAS BEEN RELEASED FROM JAIL, FORCING HER TO REVISIT OLD WOUNDS WHILE DISCOVERING THE DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF HATE.

Director(s): Blake Robbins

Actor(s): Justin Chatwin, Maggie Grace, Maika Monroe

Genre: Drama

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