Wind review Caitlin Gerard

Year: 2019
Director(s): Emma Tammi
Writer(s): Teresa Sutherland
Region of Origin: US
Rating: R
Color, 86 mins

Synopsis: A plains-woman faces the harshness and isolation of the untamed land in the Western frontier of the late 1800s. (Source)

For the entirety of its existence, the western genre has been driven by the masculine perspectives of men having to make difficult choices. Most of the time, its cowboys have defended strained reality with a smirk or a smile, glamorizing violence as a means of survival or entitlement. The genre has rarely been concerned with the women who populate its fringes. Most are often relegated to prizes or hard-suffering companions. That all changes with Emma Tammi’s The Wind. Tammi’s film is an outstanding story of strength, femininity and horror amidst a desolate frontier. It flips the genre to show terror from a uniquely personal perspective, blending ghoulish mythology with damning grief. Lead by a gripping performance from Caitlin Gerard, Tammi reclaims the genre with something fresh and unmistakably scary. 

Unfolding like a puzzle, the story takes a non-linear approach. It picks up in the aftermath of a horrible death, turning backwards and chronicling the life of a woman named Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard). Sometime in the 19th century, Lizzy and her husband live alone in an isolated stretch of land. Dealing with a recent trauma, the couple’s lives are changed when a pair of newlyweds claim a stretch of land not to far from their own. The two families soon become close friends, but something insidious begins to reveal itself. The wind around their home suddenly contributes to a progressive sense of unease, as an unknown force threatens to destroy everything Lizzy has worked so hard to maintain.

Thanks to a smart script from Teresa Sutherland, the story’s greatest asset is its unyielding perspective. In a lot of ways, the film captures a character whose struggles would normally be sidelined from standard westerns. This time out, we’re locked to Lizzy, a frontierswoman left to her own devices as her husband leaves in the wake of a tragedy. Keeping men mostly offscreen, Tammi focuses on the women in her story. Needless to say, in most cases, they’re cleaning up after the men in their lives. There’s a terror that comes from their physical and psychological isolation. Crippling guilt, shame and ideas about motherhood take center stage as Lizzy battles a sinister entity of folkloric proportions. As a horror film, Tammi’s dreamlike pace weaves flashbacks with surreal moments of terror. We’re constantly guessing the validity of what we’re seeing on screen. Tammi’s use of confined spaces and oppressive atmosphere is masterful, critiquing typical gender roles and highlighting a woman demonized and shrugged off for becoming difficult.

Wind movie still Caitlin Gerard

A massive reason the film works so well, is Caitlin Gerard. She literally carries the film on her own. Most of what the story is about can’t be said or explained with words, but Gerard nails a complexity that feels relatable and urgent. Gerard has a pretty wide range throughout, but is always keen and affecting. Alongside Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles’ Emma adds depth to the film’s character study. Telles is a great contrast to Gerard, fleshing out the story’s themes of femininity in different ways from her co-star. Thanks to the two, the film is able to tackle its ideas from opposing directions, finding middle ground for a textured portrait of horror and longing.

Despite its period trappings, The Wind feels more relevant than ever. It’s a feminist western that finally turns the tables on the time period, finding inventive ways to use horror in a way that cuts deep. Those who want depth in their scary movies will like what Tammi has to offer here. This film is horrifying in all the right ways, dissecting both the genre and its women while getting under our skin.

SG