Once Upon A River is a slow-paced but considered drama that follows Native American teenager Margo Crane in 1970s rural Michigan. With stunning cinematography from Charlotte Hornsby and great performances from most of the cast, it’s hardly surprising that it’s a festival-favourite slice of mid-western Americana ideal. Featuring a beautiful folk music soundtrack, we can conceive a place, a time and the tale.
The film tells the traumatic story of Margo Crane, as played by Kenadi DelaCerna. After enduring a series of tragedies, Margo (Kenadi DelaCerna) sets out on an odyssey on the Stark River in search of her estranged mother. On the water, Margo encounters friends, foes, wonders and dangers; navigating life on her own, she comes to understand her potential, all while healing the wounds of her past.
Family drama is the main story here, and this feels never-ending as we move with Margo across her journey, contemplating many difficult decisions following impulsive ones. It soon becomes apparent that she can be dependable only on herself in this life, and her strength is conceivably affecting.
The feature directorial debut of acclaimed folk musician Haroula Rose, Once Upon A River is based on the best-selling midwestern gothic novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Bearing in mind the director, it’s hardly surprising that a stunning OST runs alongside the visual, adding poignancy to the visuals. The soundtrack features new compositions and classics from modern and older folk legends including Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy), JD Souther, Rodney Crowell, Bridget St John and a score by Death Cab For Cutie member Zac Rae.
Starring Kenadi DelaCerna alongside legend John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run) and Tatanka Means (The Son), Ajuawak Kapashesit (Outlander), Coburn Goss (Widows), Lindsay Pulsipher (True Blood) and Josephine Decker. The brilliant casting is apparent through these performances and their ability to pull us into the drama, particularly that of breakthrough Kenadi and the character Smoke, as played by John Ashton. But for those looking for something light don’t tread this ground, there is much to contend with from the offset of Once Upon A River. However, for those looking for a brilliant new film, with stunning performances and soundtrack to boot, don’t let this slide you by. The film has already won 17 awards in the film festival circuit!
In Virtual Cinemas & On Demand in the UK from 7th May 2021