Serious Solitude: Our Review of ‘Major Arcana’

Posted in Movies, VOD/iTunes/DigitalDownload, What's Streaming? by - November 06, 2020
Serious Solitude: Our Review of ‘Major Arcana’

Major Arcana is writer/director Josh Melrod’s first narrative feature, a minimalist film about finding oneself through solitude, and it bears a distinct resemblance to Sean Penn’s 2007 movie Into the Wild

Dink (newcomer Ujon Tokarski) spent four years traveling across North America working odd jobs. He returns home to Vermont after the death of his father. He then inherited a sizable amount of money and some acreage in the forest near his father’s house. With this money, he decides to build a log cabin with his bare hands, in an attempt to get sober. He tries to rekindle a relationship with his former girlfriend Sierra (Tara Summers). He also works to patch up the bond with his alcoholic mother Jean (Lane Bradbury).

This is a very dry movie. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it boring, I certainly had a lot of difficulty connecting with it. Some of that is simply because the main character is so different from myself in nearly every way that I couldn’t relate to him. Another major issue for me was that every single character in Major Arcana is completely unlikeable. Dink is at least trying to become a better person, but still makes some detestable decisions.

Sierra in many ways is an even uglier character. She treats Dink terribly when she’s sober, and only shows affection for him when she’s drunk. Further, at one point she convinces him to do something that I found absolutely despicable. And then there’s Dink’s mother Jean. She is a cruel, needy and hateful woman. She only cares about her son when he can fix her shower or give her money. Aside from that, she only berates and belittles him. 

Granted, oftentimes in the real world people can be more like this, and the screenplay does have a sense of reality about it. However, because I felt like there was nobody in this film that I could root for, I didn’t find myself affected by the more emotional moments. That written, I did quite like the way the movie ended.

I did think that Major Arcana was shot beautifully. So much of it takes place in the forest, and the cinematography by Ramsey Fendall really captures the beauty of the Vermont landscape. Arcana complements the cinematography with very strong and wonderfully naturalistic sound design. The sounds of flowing water, wind in the leaves, the felling of trees, all of this truly made me feel like a camping trip in the best possible way.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend against watching Major Arcana. I do think that overall it’s a well made film. The acting is solid, it looks lovely, and does feel very real. Unfortunately for me anyway, some of that reality made it a struggle for me to connect with on any significant level.

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