Tag Archives: Dale Dickey

Coming of Age

A Love Song

by Hope Madden

Filmmaker Max Walker-Silverman’s feature debut A Love song blesses us with 81 minutes of Dale Dickey, a gorgeous western landscape, and not much else. It is enough.

Dickey is Faye, a solitary figure with a face full of longing at Campsite 7. She sets her crawdad traps, makes her coffee, studies birds and their calls by day, stars and their positions by night, and waits.  

Dickey’s performance is a master class in authenticity, as always. She’s been the grizzled Appalachian or the kindly townsfolk in countless films and shows. Rather than hide the years that stretch across her face, she looks out from behind them, eyes bright and observing. She wears a lifetime of experience, and that, along with her instinctive natural performances, creates depth and richness.

All that and more is called for in Walker-Silverman’s film because for about 80% of its running time, we’re alone with Faye and witness to Dickey’s achingly real performance.

Faye’s solitude is broken up here and there. A friendly couple a few campsites over invite her for dinner. An odd group of siblings arrives with a peculiar request. A kindly and encouraging mailman stops by.

Eventually, Faye’s patience pays off in the form of her childhood friend, Lito (Wes Studi). Decades of absence and years of meaning stand between Lito’s charming smile and Faye’s searching eyes.

There’s magic and nostalgia for old-fashioned love stories in Walker-Silverman’s script, but these veteran actors don’t bend to sentiment. Both know how to blend innocence with renewal, reimagining coming-of-age as they do.

Walker-Silverman’s camera lights on visual metaphors: hearty wildflowers bursting through dried earth, a transistor radio that always seems to know what to play. His film brims with the kind of beauty and type of characters reminiscent of Chloé Zhao’s work, but A Love Song is more meditative. It’s beautiful, touching and real.

Channeling His Inner Damage

Blood Father

by Hope Madden

Back in 2008, the inexplicable popularity of the mid-budget action flick Taken accomplished two things. (Three, if you count exacerbating my cynicism with the film industry.) The two noteworthy accomplishments, however, were extending the career of an aging male actor and creating a new genre of film.

If two sequels and at least half a dozen copycats (including one currently listed as filming) could turn a sixty something character actor into a mainstay action figure, couldn’t the same be done for, say, an aging action hero? Why not Stallone? Why not Schwarzenegger?

Here’s why not – they can’t act. You know who can, though? Mel Gibson.

Right, he’s looney as a tune, not to mention being a professional and social pariah, but Mad Max can kick Rambo’s ass any day and who doesn’t want to see that?

Maybe next time. Right now, though, talented French action director Jean-Francois Richet directs the lunatic in Blood Father.

The story is right out of the Liam Neeson playbook: ex-con father, clean and sober but struggling to suppress his rage and shame, needs to take action to save his teenage daughter from a drug cartel.

How will he do it? Will it be his particular set of skills?!

Of course it will. And while Blood Father is absolutely faithful to its genre, there is genuine craftsmanship in the effort. Richet allows the California desert to cast an apocalyptic spell over the tale, then brings in just enough Mad Max touches to command a burst of joy.

Gibson’s character doesn’t call for a great deal of nuance, though the actor does deliver a gruff and realistically damaged performance. He’s aided by the kind of supporting cast you just don’t find in films like these.

The great William H. Macy, the underappreciated Diego Luna, the effortlessly badass Dale Dickey, and the always welcome Michael Parks round out an ensemble talented enough to find the sun-scarred and chemical-damaged humanity in every character.

A tale told in tattoos and bullet wounds, Blood Father is still, at its heart, a love note from a shitty father to his damaged daughter – a welcome dose of near-reality in a genre saturated with creepy paternal child worship.

This is not a great movie. But you know what? I swear to God, it is not bad.