And we’re back with another edition of Friday Flix. This week we go to a lesser known but splendidly superb movie I was first introduced to in film school: Smoke Signals.
Something I love about movies is their ability to transport you into different worlds, different cultures, and different viewpoints. So I very much appreciated a little slice of life film maybe giving a little insight into growing up as a Native American. The screenplay is written by Sherman Alexie, who drew on his experiences growing up in the Spokane Indian Reservation, and directed by Chris Eyre, also Native American, whose goal is to “focus on contemporary Native American life, with a rejection of conventional stereotypes.” (via Wiki)
Movie description via Netflix:
On a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, reservation, nothing ever changes — until the estranged father of Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) bites the dust in Arizona, and Victor must go collect the cremated remains. The problem is, Victor can’t afford the fare. But annoying nerd Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams) will float Victor a loan … if Thomas can tag along. This tender tale of self-discovery is based on acclaimed author Sherman Alexie’s short stories.
Smoke Signals is a beautifully put together movie with lots of quotable lines, high emotion, great performances, and great story.
CHARACTERS WITH MOTIVATION
The movie has two protagonists, although most of the story belongs to Victor. For him, life is mostly about trying to reconcile his drunkard father ditching him and his mom several years ago.
Victor starts out as a kind of likeable jerk, and as we go more and more into backstory you understand why he treats Thomas the way he does and I think his fears in becoming the loser he believes his father is.
Poor geeky, almost Urkle-esque Thomas admires Victor like the older brother and family he never had. For him the journey is figuring out, as the film puts it, what it really means to be an Indian. His innocence and honesty are what give him an awkward charm and grates on Victor.
So how do we tie these two polar opposites together? Because Victor’s drunkard father saved Thomas from the fire that killed his parents when he was a baby. This reeks of wonderful story tension.