Strange Weather is a powerful delve into the complexities of death, grief, redemption, and reconciliation.

Several years after the death of her son, Walker, Darcy Baylor (Holly Hunter) gets some unsettling news about a former classmate of his that sticks in her mind like a thistle. After some digging and further examination of the items her son had on him at the time of his death (memories she had quite literally locked away), Darcy realizes that something isn’t right. No, something is off and now she needs answers. Enlisting the help of her friend, Byrd (Carrie Coon), she embarks on a journey across state lines to find out what really happened to Walker in his final days.

Writer and director Katherine Dieckmann intentionally constructs a rich world filled with characters that are perfect balancing acts. They are interesting but at the same time not so colorful as to be implausible – an all too common mistake in Indie films. (Everyone is zany and unique! Everyone plays the piccolo or has a Real Doll for a girlfriend! Isn’t it all so charmingly offbeat?) And on the other hand, the story is set in the South, so it would have been very easy for these characters to be hokey stereotypes. They could be backwards cops or snaggle-toothed yokels, but they’re not. No, like a master chef, Dieckmann serves us characters as warm and familiar as syrup on hotcakes, but never ever contrived. Just real people in a real world.

And it should be said that each character is brought to life by an actor at the top of his or her game. Kim Coates as dependable, dogged love interest Clay and late actress Glenne Headly as Darcy’s old friend Mary Lou are so good. Even Johnny McPhail who has no lines but has to let his vacant eyes and scraggly brows do the talking for him is impressive. And what to even say about Hunter? This is her film and there is no doubt about that. It may be her best yet. She took Darcy and made her a force to be reckoned with, all righteous indignation and whiskey fire. She’s smart and sexy and strong, and nothing sounds quite as satisfying as her drawling out her character’s name: Darrrrcy Baylorrrr.

In some ways, Strange Weather is a road trip movie. There is a Point A and a Point B and the characters move along a line. It’s a literal one drawn out by Darcy on a map actually – “I like to see the roads laid out in front of me on one piece of paper,” she explains. The women fill up on gas, drive with the windows down, and make pit stops and detours. So a road trip, yes, but the film is so much more than its genre.

It is filled with moments that will dig at the dark, achy places inside of you, like when one of Walker’s old friends explains to Darcy that her son didn’t enjoy being a teenager and still bathing in a tub, to which she replies indignantly, “Claw foot! Stall showers are ugly!” The line is so small but it speaks volumes and is really a microcosm for the movie itself – it’s a painful but necessary reminder that even with those we love, those we see as closest to us, we may never really know all of their truth.

If you’re up for the journey, check out Strange Weather in theaters and on VOD and digital platforms on July 28th.

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