Review by Mark Schwab
March 9th, 2018
"We may be through with the past but the past is not through with us!"
- Quiz Kid Donnie Smith in MAGNOLIA
That line applies perfectly to Victoria Shaffer, the main protagonist in writer/producer/director Wesley Ellenwood's indie feature saga NO BLOOD OF MINE. We meet Victoria driving alone in the vastness of northern Middle America. When she pulls over to the side of the road to get some air, she quickly hides behind her car the second she notices another car on the road coming towards her. Clearly something is off and we know right away that she is running from something. But Victoria is also running towards something - Duluth, Minnesota to be exact where her grandmother is. From the moment she parks her car and her grandmother comes out with the facial expression of someone chewing on a wasp, we know things are going to get messy.
The opening sequences of NO BLOOD OF MINE are wonderful as a tone is established that drips with intrigue. Beautiful stark landscapes under the dusky emptiness of regret are superbly embodied by Sierra Shermerhorn's ice-cold expressions. It was starting to feel like an earthier version of FARGO and my pulse quickened a bit in anticipation.
Alas, after the first pitch-perfect 8 or 9 minutes the spell wore off for me but not for the usual reasons. NO BLOOD OF MINE is a very densely plotted film - there's a ton of twists, buried secrets, intense grudges and violently illegal debts with payment due. It's a lot to process and it goes down heavily, needing almost two hours to unravel all the threads to the tangled web of deceit Victoria weaves as she returns home as the prodigal bad daughter (anything over 90 minutes is an ambitious running time for an indie film).
When thinking about it though, the screenplay is actually pretty cool in its lurid noir-ness. The twists and turns are clever and as we move from point A to B there is no shortage of interesting characters standing in Victoria's way of redemption at any cost. They are even developed, avoiding just being cardboard cut-outs to move the plot like most indie features. Yes, it's all pretty juicy with lots of stuff for an audience to bite into as it gives off whiffs of TRUE DETECTIVE.
Unfortunately, there is a big elephant in the room with me here that I now must acknowledge and that is the acting.
Using a cast that was all pretty local to Minnesota, they were just not up to carrying off the complexities of Ellenwood's script. Not that they aren't trying up there and they all look the part for sure. But some struggle to stay in character, some look downright nervous just trying to say the lines correctly and some simply look lost about the difference between acting for a camera and acting for a theater audience.
On every other front, NO BLOOD OF MINE is a very impressive example of independent film production; excellent cinematography, a solid music score, wonderful location shooting (that actually plays into the plot perfectly) and indeed a very intriguing and original screenplay (which is by far the hardest hurdle to clear for indie filmmakers). NO BLOOD OF MINE serves up a smorgasbord of atmosphere, shady characters and mysterious motives but the acting just leaves a bit too much of a bitter taste for me. However, I'm still encouraging you to check out the trailer above and their links below so you can decide for yourself. Plus you can purchase the DVD and BluRay directly from their website.
Learn much more about NO BLOOD OF MINE at the following links: