April 21, 2017.
Ah the smell of rain. So peaceful. So calming. Such a wonderful, pleasant smell. To the characters in Blake Robinson’s “The Scent of Rain and Lightning” rain doesn’t smell pleasant and peaceful, it smells like tragedy and despair. “The Scent of Rain and Lightning” is based on the novel by Nancy Pickard and tells the story about a young woman in the American midwest, Jody Linder (Maika Monroe), who discovers that the man who murdered her parents has been released from jail, but the catch is he may just be innocent! We follow Jody as she uncovers deep family secrets and tries to piece together the truth. For the most part, I really enjoyed Robinson’s film. It felt like I was watching a murder mystery directed by Terrence Malick; arthouse take on a whodunnit mystery. The camerawork reflects the characters and the midwest perfectly. Close-up shots frame the characters well, giving us the intimate feel of small town life while the camera constantly shakes and moves allowing the audience to feel a disturbance in every scene. For the most part this style of cinematography worked, but in certain scenes it was hard to understand what exactly was happening and what characters were involved. The characters were layered and complex, and allowed the actors to really dig deep into their roles with “It Follows” lead Maika Monroe and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” star Mark Webber being the standouts to me. The release of this convicted man tests the family and friends to a breaking point, and all the actors brought emotional complexity to their performances. I loved Robinson’s decision to not gift anything to the audience. You have to pay attention at all times to understand what’s going on, as the story’s timeline continually shifts from present to past with no handouts for the audience to grasp. You need to get used to the shifts, and Robinson really challenges the viewer’s attention. These shifts don’t really start until the 30 minute mark, and they really helped the pacing. The first bit of the film felt more like strings of exposition being thrown at us and less like Jody doing detective work. It’s hard to get into the story at the beginning, but once the characters get more fleshed out you fall deep into the story. I was more focused on the relationship and intricacies between the characters then I was on the whodunit aspect. It’s a shame the film switches beats and chooses to focus solely on this aspect which created a pretty lacklustre ending. Overall, “The Scent of Rain of Lightning” is a well directed arthouse take on a basic murder mystery story that is inhabited with complex characters and emotional performances, but falls in its first and third acts. If you like murder mysteries and whodunits with a fresh, updated look on the genre than I would recommend this film.