Directed by Anne Hamilton
When 11-year-old Gitty discovers that her father, Abe, a good and beloved farmer, is holding a wealthy man hostage in their abandoned silo in order to save their suffering farm, she befriends the captive in secret. As the truth unfolds about who he is and what will happen if he escapes, Gitty chooses to confront the thin line between reality and fiction.
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★★★½ review by Dale Raulerson on Letterboxd
Much like the recent Dig Two Graves, writer/director Anne Hamilton's American Fable plants itself firmly in rural America, harnessing the quiet, natural beauty for atmosphere and mood. The child's perspective in this setting is rife with imagination, dark and whimsical at the drop of a hat, and it's thanks to this that the story is able to take on more life than it would have from any other angle. What is real, what is magical? The film gives us enough answers over time, but keeps a few to itself in a play that is entertaining enough, despite its flaws.
The script, and to some extent the acting, aren't perfect. There are some pretty heavy handed allegorical lines and awkward exchanges, and early in the film I was pretty lukewarm to young Peyton Kennedy. However, I really do think that she comes into her own as the film progresses, with some genuinely endearing moments between herself and both her father (Kip Pardue) and the imprisoned man (Richard Schiff). The rest of the cast came across as much more archetypal and without depth, especially the oh-so-evil Gavin McIntosh, who isn't necessarily bad in his role, his role simply lacks nuance. There are a lot of loose threads and unanswered questions by the end of the film, beyond the surface level "happy ending" which is disappointing too.
A lot of people are probably going to feel misled by the fantasy aspect of this plot as well, which really is pretty minor and more metaphorical than ever literal. Still, they conjure up some gorgeous shots and memorable imagery with what they do portray and I was still rather happy with the overall level of mystery that they were able to generate via the imagination and willingness to believe of the young girl lead.
On the point of visuals, that is most certainly what the film has most in its favor. The scenic countryside is lovely and the camerawork is crisp and patient, giving the setting plenty of breathing room. Very good production values in general for a low budget film like this (minus some bad CGI fire in one scene, which is becoming rather common these days).
I enjoyed this movie, but I will say I wanted to enjoy it more. A tighter script and a better fleshed out supporting cast could've done wonders for it, and I do admit that I'd have enjoyed it if they'd embraced the fantasy aspect a little more. Still, a reasonably good debut for the director.
★★★½ review by Emily on Letterboxd
Wish I had a friend like Happy the chicken, miss him
★★★★ review by Tasha Robinson on Letterboxd
Spooky, sad, and beautifully shot. A modern-day fairy tale that isn't quite in this world and isn't quite in a fantasy world. Reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro, with just the slightest touch of a less anarchic Terry Gilliam. But the director has worked with Terrence Malick, and the sunny, idealized landscapes and practical wonder of childhood feel very much like his work too.
★★★★ review by jackieburkhart on Letterboxd
Martin looked like a young Ansel Elgort with a broken face
★★★★ review by Robert J.H on Letterboxd
First notable thing about American Fable that came into my head was that the acting and dialogue was pretty bad. The way the characters deliver exposition about themselves and the plot was unnatural and Kip Pardue, who's this mixture of Daniel Tosh and James Franco, gave a pretty jarring performance. So the movie starts off with these two flaws being dreadfully apparent and that gave me a bad taste in my mouth.
However, as the plot builds up and the film develops its atmosphere, it becomes a very emotional drama thriller and lightly surreal dream with beautiful cinematography. To add to that, the film is riddled with what I believe are allegories pertaining to childhood and the state of America. I don't exactly know what exactly the film is an allegory of, I'm gonna need to rewatch it at some point and read some analyses, but I'll tell you what I felt was pretty clearly discussed:
We use fables and tall tales as a way to teach the children about the world. But the world is complicated and full of moral conundrums and ethical gray areas. American Fable is about a child realizing this and trying to decide for herself what is right; if you're a mouse, is it okay to rescue a lion even if you know that lion will most likely eat you afterwards?
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