Essay: All the Boys and Girls

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The following is a micro-essay that first appeared on Twitter, which I’ve edited and pasted here in its entirety. Here are the others:

The Horizon Eaters
We Buy Gold

**

Or: Those Puppet Years

His name was Toby.

He had soft electric blue hair, yellow felt skin, and googly eyes. Toby was, yes, a puppet. I was at church—Sunday School—and in each of the rooms off the main hall there were groups waiting for students. The idea was that we would find a group (choir, volunteering for kitchen duty, etc.) to invest our time in. I was nine or ten, and I hated this idea: I already had to go to church for Mid-week classes (our version of Catechism), Sunday School, and church…and that was enough. But then I wandered into a room filled with puppets of all sizes, shapes, types. And, having grown up with the Muppets, with everything Jim Henson, I was hooked.

Puppets—a Puppet Ministry, they called it—was a new idea for my church. The Youth Group wanted a way to reach out to more people, more students, especially, not just in our church, but in churches throughout Michigan and the Midwest. And, as a kid who was really sheltered, the thought of going to some other church, meeting other kids who didn’t go to the same school as me—that new blood I found so mysterious and alluring—I was hysterically excited. Plus, it would get me out of going to church a couple Sundays a month for performances, so that was pretty swell, too.

My folks loved this, the idea of me being involved with the church, and they didn’t, always, go with me on overnight trips where we’d be touring, which I thought was very adult and absurdly cool. I was fast approaching the end of elementary school, excited to start middle school, excited to, eventually, be a teenager, and I was coming out of my shell a bit. (Just a bit.) And this Puppet Ministry was a chance to get out, to see other, new places, and to have a bit of independence, too. See, I joke—often—that any awkwardness I exude around other people, any self-perceived weirdness, is my latent Lutheranism rearing its head. But, I’ve come to realize it isn’t really a joke. I don’t consider myself an awkward person—prone to awkwardness, absolutely—but there is a genuine shyness that, I think, has to do with being from the Midwest and growing up Lutheran. And, even then, I recognized that I wanted more from life, so puppets, doing this, of all things…I saw it as a way to embrace what was churning inside me. And getting to hang out with church friends, a really hip Youth Pastor I greatly admired, travel around…an emphatic yes yes yes.

**

Here’s how the Puppet Ministry worked—what we did: We had puppets that we bought, all sorts of humans and animals and vegetables and angels, and a Jesus puppet, too, of course, and we would get these pre-recorded skit tapes and songs, all with Christian themes. We had this massive stage built with PVC pipe and thick black curtains; this was the performance area, which we had to assemble and disassemble before and after every performance. The puppeteers would enter from this little enclosed area from the back, through a slit in the curtain like we were going on some grand (hidden) stage, and we’d sit or kneel, put the puppets up so they appeared waist-high above the curtain (they had no lower halves, anyway), and then motion and mouth and move along to the recording.

And it was hard. Really.

It took a lot of practice to be good, to not just flap the puppet’s head so it looked like it a seesaw. (The key is to move just your thumb, snuggly fitted in the puppet’s lower jaw, keeping the top part of the hand, and by extension the head, as still as possible, to mimic the way we talk in real life. And, while this is going on, your other hand is responsible for articulating two metal rods attached to the puppet’s wrists, attempting any sort of realistic/feasible hand movements.) And, for whatever reason, I was born to do this. I could keep my arm up the longest, had the best rhythm, gesticulated the best, and my enthusiasm was unparalleled. I remember, in 7th Grade, maybe late 6th Grade, when they promoted me to Lead Puppeteer. I thought, Yeah, I deserve this. I had worked hard, and no one could puppet the way I could puppet. I even got to be the sole puppeteer of Gerbert.*

*Gerbert is basically the Christian version of Kermit the Frog, an orange-skinned and lemon-headed child in a baseball cap with a squirting, halting voice that hands down religious life lessons. He was famous (maybe still is?), had a TV show, and, again, we’d buy tapes with his skits and songs, had an official Gerbert puppet, too, and would perform these wherever we went. And, no joke: kids worshiped him. They cheered for Gerbert when he popped up, and me, being behind the curtain, hand in Gerbert, ate it up. After all…he was me. Those cheers, then, were for me, too.

We’d practice a couple nights per week, every week. My dad, an avid tinkerer, built props for us, giant neon-spray-painted and black-light-receptive signs to be popped up during the skit or song or whatever we were doing. Then, on weekends, we’d tour around and/or perform at our own church. We’d go to competitions a couple times per year, too, massive meet-ups of other churches and their puppet groups where’d you’d compete and be judged on the quality of the puppets and props, skill of the puppeteers, overall enthusiasm, creativity, etc.

I was having the time of my young life.

**

It all changed when I hit 8th Grade. I was starting to move away from the church and its teachings, questioning everything. (I can pinpoint almost exactly when it started, that year, when a Sunday School teacher of mine stumbled after I questioned about dinosaurs, why they weren’t mentioned in the Bible, etc., and she scolded me, said something to the effect of, “Don’t ask any more questions, Robby! Religion isn’t about questions!”) Because I’d been having doubts about it all, about everything, it made stomaching the saccharine songs and skits that much more difficult, but really, if I’m being honest, it was about the fact I wanted to talk to girls, to be a “normal” kid, and I didn’t see puppets as normal—I started seeing it as weird, an oddity. Gone was the pride I had only a year or so before, replaced now with a spiral of shame. No one could know I was involved with this—no one!

A friend from church made fun of me once in 9th Grade, the last year I picked up a puppet, in front of a whole bunch of non-church friends, and that was, as I saw it, the literal end. I had only agreed to do puppets again that year because my parents were gutted when I told them I wanted out, had lost interest. But now, with people at school hearing about this…that was too far. So I (graciously, as I saw it) kept it up until the “season” ended, then bowed out. My youth pastor was dejected, my parents disappointed, and none of the other puppeteers and parents could understand why I wanted to be gone.

And then I was. And I never looked back.

My non-church friends who didn’t know about this part of my life already were never told. Those that did were sworn to secrecy. And I moved on to other things in my life and put puppeteering, puppets, and church, all behind me.

But now, twenty-ish years later, still no longer part of any church (this isn’t about that), I find myself coming back to those puppet years often and remembering them fondly, almost longingly. I was a child, I wanted to explore, I wanted to be liked—and, really, I wanted to make a difference in some way. Puppeteering gave me all of that. I was still shy in high school, really didn’t emerge into Fully Formed Adult Rob until college, but I absolutely believe that time with the Puppet Ministry is when I began to move away from ultra-reserved hidden-away Michigan boy, letting the chatty, silly boy who lurked there beneath—the real me—break free. I’m thankful for that. And I get it: So many of us move away from childish endeavors (or, what we perceive as childish endeavors) during adolescence. I don’t regret that specifically—I don’t wish that I had become a professional puppeteer, or anything like that—but it is a weird duality: being a part of that Puppet Ministry that I hated so much in the end helped me focus on my writing, my drawing, too, and it made me fearless(-ish) in wanting to try out new things and experiences and meeting new people—which I still carry with me today. And, I have to think, that it was all worth it, no matter what Adolescent Robby thought.

**

At my folks’ house, when I visit, I occasionally rifle through bags and tubs of old toys and knickknacks from when I was a kid. Last time I was there I came across a wolf puppet—a puppet I loved dearly when I was a kid. I found myself on the couch, hours later, with the wolf still firmly attached to my hand, watching television, only half-paying attention to what I was doing, pantomiming the wolf’s mouth along to the commercials that whizzed by in thirty second spots. I petted his fur, lingered on the glass marble eyes staring blankly ahead, the white plastic teeth that looked good for their age, only just starting to yellow. I was smiling.

**

Side note: The title of this essay is taken from a Christian rendition of Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” that goes a little something like this:

Jeremiah was a prophet / Moses was a prophet too. / Jesus Christ was the Son of God / and man His love shines down on you. / Yes His love shines down on you. / Singing Joy to the World / All the boys and girls / Joy to children of Galilee / Joy to you and me. 

[and onward, etc.]

Interview at Michigan Volumes

Honored to have chatted with Karen Hopper at Michigan Volumes about Mesilla, my writing process, the silliness of the Western genre as well as the wonderful conversations it produces, too (among other things).

Michigan Volumes is a radio show and podcast dedicated to Michigan writers and books set in or about Michigan. Really thrilled to have been asked to participate—and to support a homegrown Michigan show like this!

Pick up a copy of Mesilla at Dock Street Press.

Mesilla reviewed at The Next Best Book Blog

Lori at The Next Best Book Blog recently reviewed Mesilla:

Breathtaking, beautiful, and bloody as hell, Mesilla kept me captivated straight through to the very end. The book is all landscape and language, Russell is one helluva talented writer. The only complaint I have is that I wish it were longer.

Do check out the rest of the review—and thanks, Lori! 

Pick up a copy of Mesilla at Dock Street Press.

MVICW Writing Contest

UntitledWriters! The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing (MVICW) is a stunning writing conference that takes place (well, obviously!) on Martha’s Vineyard, and each year they bring in absolutely stellar faculty—it’s one of the coolest writing and community experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Period.

I’m delighted to be the fiction judge for the inaugural MVICW Writing Contest, alongside uber-talent and fantastic human being Marcus Wicker (who will be judging poetry). Prizes will cover tuition and lodging for this summer’s program. So, check it out, pass it along, and teachers, tell your students.

I really can’t recommend the MVICW enough. Details below, and on the MVICW website.

Contest Details

Two First Prizes: $1500 (Tuition and Lodging for the Week): Poetry and Fiction
Runner up: $500 each (Towards Tuition): Poetry and Fiction

We are thrilled to offer the first annual competition to win a spot at The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing.  The competition is open to anyone who will be 18 years or older as of July 2016. Two winners (one in poetry and one in fiction) will receive the full retreat package, including tuition and lodging. Two second prize winners (one in poetry and one in fiction) will receive $500 towards the cost of tution and lodging. For full details click on the “enter contest” button above or go to mvicw.com to read about our program and guidelines.

About the MVICW

The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing was founded in order to give writers the opportunity to develop their craft among established authors. The Institute offers a comprehensive week-long focus on writing, providing writers with the necessary time to devote to their art, in the idyllic setting of the Vineyard. Each summer, we invite award-winning authors and poets, literary journal editors, and university creative writing faculty from around the country to lead writing workshops, work one-on-one with individuals, and provide the necessary tips and tools for editing and publishing. Our goal is to make the writing program experience a personal one that aids in building a writing community, establishing friendships with other writers, and offering contacts in the industry. Participants include individuals of varying ages and writing abilities, from published writers to skilled beginners. We hope you will join us this summer!

Mesilla reviewed by David Abrams

David Abrams, the uber-talented, acclaimed author who blurbed Mesilla upon its release, recently reviewed the book and exclaimed it one of the best novellas he read in 2015:

Spare, unforgiving, relentless, beautiful. Those words describe three things: the New Mexico desert landscape in 1863, the plot of Mesilla, and Robert James Russell’s language which never seems to break a sweat on this novella’s pages.

I’m forever grateful for David’s words—for everything! And this is great company to be in, his other picks. Highly recommend checking those out, too.

Pick up a copy of Mesilla at Dock Street Press.

Essay: We Buy Gold

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The following is a micro-essay that first appeared on Twitter—the second of mine…the first is here—that I’ve edited and pasted here in its entirety. 

**

I’ve only ever been to a toga party once, back when I lived in Los Angeles.

I had moved to LA right after college (in the Midwest)—never having not lived in the Midwest—excited to try to get a job in the movie industry, and to reinvent myself…start over.

It was all on a lark, really. An acquaintance in college (who I didn’t know too well, to be honest) was moving out there. We were in film classes together—I acted in one of his student films, he filmed one of mine—and one day he propositioned me: “You should come with.”

That was all it took: “You should come with.” Why not, I reasoned.

My folks weren’t happy—my mom didn’t fly (still doesn’t), so the prospect of seeing me, visiting me, would require them to drive out to California (no easy feat, if you’ve ever done it), which did not excite them. But my mind was set: I needed to get to the West Coast. It had the allure, the promise, of something…anything. I had an English degree, I wanted to be a writer but barely wrote, believing writing wasn’t something to be nurtured, but that would just rear itself when needed. Some latent gift. I had a Film Specialization, too. I loved film (still do): it inspires me in a way that not even music, writing, can. And I was stagnant, here, in Michigan. Sick of the Midwest, wanted to get away from a crappy relationship, cold weather, and absolutely zero prospects. So, I left, end of the summer, a couple months after I graduated.

I arrived in LA…and, well, it was a weird situation.

My college girlfriend (we were broken up—for good—at the time) decided she was moving out there, too, on a whim! Really. She applied to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, got in, and we—me and her and her dad (ugh, it was awkward) flew out together. I knew exactly two people in LA at the time: my roommate, who was already out there, and my ex-girlfriend, who, for a while, wanted to patch things up, but I didn’t want that, I needed to move on—ready to leave it, us, behind.

I saw her only a handful of times when I lived in LA, I realize now, for that very reason: she reminded me of home, of the old me, and it hindered me, I thought. It didn’t allow me the clean break I needed. And, see, it wasn’t that I was escaping something heinous back home—nothing like that. I just didn’t come into my own, who I was, who my friends were, what I was comfortable being, doing, until later in college, and I felt…held back. I wanted that California sunshine, the waves, the glamor, the tanned body (why not!)…all of it. I had never had a chance to break free in my life, to really feel unencumbered, and I needed that. Desperately.

(Also: Can we talk for a minute about how horrible it was being on a plane with my ex, her dad, and me—me at the window, her dad on the aisle, him hating me, and whenever we talked, me and her, he’d lean forward and death stare me. Just horrible.)

So, there I was, stepping off the proverbial bus from the Midwest (but, you know, a plane), a walking cliché, never having been to LA before. In fact, I was so naïve, I arrived without a car thinking I didn’t need one. Ha!  But I got a job pretty quick in the South Bay area at a mall as a manager of a…let’s just say a once-popular-but-now-declining-yet-always-controversial-clothing store that smelled—strongly—of cologne), and had to bus it there (1.5 hours each way). Which was…interesting, to say the least. I’d sit there, riding, listening to my Discman as we rode through the industrial parts of town, near the airport, scared, nervous, alone.

I bought a car not long after, an adorable all-white 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit convertible. It was cheap, needed a lot of work, but I loved that car. I could write for days about it (maybe I will someday).

Anyway, I was settling in. Time passed. I had my go-to order for In-N-Out (Animal-style!), knew my way around the city, the best beaches (El Matador!), where to get cheap good food (hello, small Hawaiian diner in Manhattan Beach with the huge huge portions!), and—soon enough—I was working at a film studio. I had somehow finagled my way into a job as the Assistant to the President of Production at an actual film studio that made big popular films. It was nuts, a dream, a nightmare…all of it.

But I was lost.

LA is…a beautiful city. Truly. I had made great friends, I loved the weather (didn’t, really, miss the seasons, if I’m being honest), adopted a very California-lazy vibe, and I had no real complaints. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do, to be, and that place is a very dangerous place to exist in with that state of mind.

I had been living there for about ten months when the toga party happened.  We were invited by a woman that my roommate and I knew, a friend-of-a-friend situation. And I remember this clearly: to get ready, my roommate and I went to Target to buy new sheets, fresh sheets, and I got soft heather gray Jersey-knit style sheets to be my toga. I didn’t want white ones. Everyone would be in white.

The the party was at a moderately-nice-but-still-rundown apartment complex on a hill overlooking Culver City (where we lived). And it was packed. Wall to wall. People were drinking (duh), drugs were happening (not by me, but hey, no judgment), and it was…fun. Not crazy, nothing was going on I hadn’t seen before during college, just the good, semi-restrained fun I was used to back in the Midwest.

Then I met someone, a woman named Chichi.

Nothing happened, not even an eventual goodbye hug, but we hit it off, talked a bit out on the balcony overlooking the sprawl, and the party, eventually (as all good parties do) headed to the beach. It was late, closer to morning than night, and the handful of us that had relocated found spots, companions, and nestled. A fog had rolled in—I still remember it, this magical scene: waves crashing, no birds, no cars, dense, soft, otherworldly.

If I’m being honest, I don’t remember much about Chichi, but I remember her telling me that she had moved to LA from somewhere else, out East, I think, and that she loved LA, didn’t know what she wanted to do or be but was in love with being there. I asked her what she did, how she got by. She worked odd jobs, as we all do in our twenties, and then she told me, too, that she’d periodically go to the pawn shop and sell things, her prized possessions, one at a time to make ends meet, when needed.

“One of those ‘We buy gold’ places?” I joked.

“Yes,” she said. And she had sold some gold—jewelry, inherited—her DVD player, movies, baseball cards that she had collected whatever she could get money for.

“Why?” I asked. “Why sell everything you love, you own”—she did love these things, she told me—“why stress yourself out like this?”

“Because I want to be here that bad,” she told me. “Nothing else matters to me other than being here. In this place.”

I was…surprised. I had never loved anything in my life that much. It turns out I liked LA, but didn’t love it, my job was…okay, at times (mostly soul-sucking, though), but that sort of passion did not exist in my life. And I was jealous, immediately. There had been an idea, a kernel of an idea, bubbling in my mind for a while: I wanted to move home, back to Michigan. I wanted to go to grad school (somewhere) and I wanted to write…books. Novels. But here I was, feeling dead-ended, stuck, perpetually. I had good times, made the best of it, yes, but I wasn’t…where I needed to be. And she, Chichi, was.

Someone got spooked soon after that, thinking the cops were coming, that we’d be chased off the beach (or worse), so we parted ways. I never talked to or heard from Chichi again, but that was fine…it wasn’t about that. Everything changed after that night, after our conversation. My life, my direction, it all changed.

I had wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but I didn’t understand the hard work that it took, the time, the practice (oh god so much practice) and life experience, too. But talking to Chichi ripped something open—made me realize, running clumsily in the sand, toga sopping wet from having played in the dark ocean, that I deserved to have that, too, what she had.

I left LA a few months later, moved back to Michigan. I was happy with my decision, with where I’ve ended up now. I did go to grad school, and I picked up the pen in a way that I had always dreamt of, always wanted, from that point forward. In fact, I can pinpoint that night, if I think about it, as being the night that set me on the track, the writing track, understanding what I needed to do, how I needed to bleed for it, the craft. But every so often I think about being lost, about being in that place, that sprawl, especially, and I wonder, now, looking back, if Chichi is still there, somewhere, selling her possessions, scraping by, still, just so she can have an LA area code, zip code, apartment, stories, friends, and if she has any of her gold family jewelry left. Or if it’s been sold, melted down, it, too, gone, forever, from that place, made to be something else, for someone else—transformed into something it was really meant to be.

Mesilla reviewed at Small Press Book Review

Mel Bosworth recently reviewed my Western novel Mesilla at Small Press Book Review:

A simple story of pursued and pursuer wrapped in lush and stirring detail, Mesilla offers a great way to gallop through an easy afternoon with some cowboy coffee or a slug of whiskey.

So thankful for the kind review, and so glad Mel enjoyed it.

Pick up a copy of Mesilla at Dock Street Press.

Film, Thoughts: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

This is a film of loss. Of the mania of dealing with loss. Of being lost in a world where we’re encouraged, our entire lives, to have purpose, a purpose, that what we do—office worker, movie star, politician, pet store owner, etc.—has meaning and we should find meaning in it. But what happens when we can’t? What happens when the one thing we want, what we want, isn’t appropriate for our stance in society? What’s expected of us? What happens then?

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Being a working writer—which, for me, is someone who works to support the writing—I get this. I get that, doing one thing, no one really cares about the other. I get that sense of loss—I think any artist would. And that’s what this film is about, to me: Kumiko is a case of extremes, to be sure—she is delusional, her only real companion is her pet rabbit, bunzo—a one-sided friendship, to be sure—she dodges calls from one-time friends, her mother—but she is driven to hunt for treasure. This is her passion. This is her calling. And no one understands it.

This is a beautiful film. An infuriating film. You know, from the very first moments, when Kumiko is seen traipsing along a bucolic, rock-strewn beach—where she serendipitously finds, in a cave, an old VHS cassette of the Coen brothers classic Fargo—that this won’t end well. Coupled with the fact that this is based off of the urban legend of Takako Konishi, a Japanese woman who mis-reportedly died trying to find the money hidden by Steve Buscemi’s character, Carl Showalter, in the movie. But, back to the beach: Kumiko is traipsing, carefree, we see a tree in the foreground, the background, with her and the beach, slowly coming into focus…and she is alone. And anything could happen. We are already plunged into the depths of her mania: that she is on a mission, en media res, although we never find out what starts her, what gets her to here.

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But it doesn’t matter. This is a film about isolation, too. About not feeling connected to others. It is shot beautifullypainstakingly, I wager, to resemble a Coen brothers film—acted impeccably, and the soundtrack is next-level good. We don’t ever get to know Kumiko other than the very precarious life she leads (goes to work; dissects the Fargo VHS tape; plays with Buzno), but we aren’t supposed to. I came away watching this, first, mired in sadness—sad for Kumiko, lost and alone, frozen, never finding the money (although, we do get a momentary glimpse of happiness for her, from her point-of-view, we imagine, as she succumbs to nature, to the Minnesota cold blanketing her body)—but then, I thought about it, thought about myself (how else should we view films, but against our own lives, histories?), and I had a very different reaction: This is an uplifting film, to some degree, with a strong moral at the end reminding us, that when we die, the only things we will carry with us into the next life, whatever that may be, are the passions that drove us, played out in our lives. You can easily weep for Kumiko, for her loss, but she’s so happy in the end, even in her delusion, and I think that’s…something.

My score: 4 out of 5 treasure maps

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Interview at Fiction Writers Review

I am completely honored to have chatted with Nina Buckless at Fiction Writers Review about my new novel Mesilla, my (admittedly odd) writing process, and finding the voice of the story:

“And one can revel in the story and arresting impressions captured in the pages of this novel, a bold story and a true, unapologetic Western. But Robert James Russell also illustrates the sorrow, loss, risk, and struggle of the individuals who may have made their way into or out of this unique place and landscape.”

I am a monstrous fan of FWR—as far as I’m concerned, they are one of the best hubs for discussing literature, publishing, everything in between—and it really means so much to be featured on the site. Thanks again to Nina, and Jeremy Chamberlin, for everything.

And check out Mesilla, too, if you’re so inclined.

Under the Volcano

22815_under-the-volcano-5Admission: I have not read Lowry’s novel the film is based on (not yet, anyway), but this film is done so well, impeccably acted, a true character study, that I can’t wait to pick it up.

Albert Finney is a dream here. I have never seen alcoholism presented so unflinchingly: not as a plot device, not as a means to push the story forward, but as baggage…as an anchor that follows Finney’s Consul with every step, every breath. Forming the words in his mouth for him. Deciding where to go, what to do. It is awkward, this film, and meant to be: a man drowning in drunkenness, careening toward total collapse. A man, a government official stationed in Mexico—a white man—meeting and talking with the locals, yes, but not being a part of their culture. His talk, his actions, his dipsomania…the city around him, the people, are means for him to relish his own losses, what he has not accomplished, what has been taken from him (or, in reality, what he has lost on account of his nearsightedness). Here is a man who doesn’t wish to know the landscape, to fully understand his position, geographically or otherwise, and ultimately meets his demise on account of it.

The story is simple, really: it follows Finney’s Consul on the last day of his life. His estranged wife has come back to him after having left without so much a word, and the two of them, along with Finney’s adventurer pal Hugh, take to the streets, the countryside, discussing life, possibilities, yet all of them, this whole time, remain removed from the physical world around them. There are parallels to Marlowe’s Faustus myth, yes. The Consul is suffering, and he believes, really believes, there is no cure, there is no salvation. The Consul, ultimately, cannot see the beauty of what is actually in front of him: that his wife has returned to be with him, that he has the deep affection of his friend Hugh, that the people and places he visits are full of remarkable people all with their own stories. That he is hovering above them, far too high, so high he cannot see how he got there, or how he can get down. Again, I was worried this would be another White Savior movie, a story of a foreign man bringing peace and prosIMG_5872perity to a place not his own, but it is not. It is a study of the fallibility of man; of man’s desire to understand the world but in its egocentrism never being able to…all while the world, the rest of the world, keeps on spinning.

I really did love this film. What stopped it from being a solid 5 for me? I’m not sure. John Huston’s directing is fantastic, the scenery is luscious, and the acting is top-notch. Yet, I can’t place why this wasn’t a flat-out home run. Did it drag in parts? Perhaps, but forgivable. Was it the frustration of seeing someone who cannot pull themselves out of their downward spiral? Yes, but that was, after all, the point of the film, I’d argue. So, I’m not sure… But this was a powerhouse, one I absolutely recommend. And a nice companion piece, actually, to Sorcerer, another film made in about the same timeframe featuring some similar themes.

My score: 4 out of 5 sugar skulls

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