“Shotgun Stories” is a deeply absorbing masterpiece. A film of astonishing power about a blood feud between two sets of half brothers. It is a quietly observant film, that sneaks in to the lives of it’s characters, letting them speak and act naturally. It is no coincidence that the films director, Jeff Nichols, seems inspired by David Gordon Green, as it turns out that Green is the producer of the film.
The story involves a blood feud between two sets of half brothers. We only really get to know one of the set of brothers. They are lead by Son played by Michael Shannon. The other two are Kid and Boy. Son’s wife has just walked out on him because of his gambling problem. He thinks that he is close to breaking the system that will help him beat the house. The other two sons are pretty much poverty stricken. One lives in a tent in Son’s backyard, the other lives in his van. Son has them stay in the house after his wife walks out.
Soon they find out from their mother that their father has died. This is an astonishing scene in itself, as she tells them he passed away, they ask where the service will be, and she replies with “Look it up in the paper”. They are not exactly the closest family. Son, Boy, and Kid show up about half way through. Son says a few less then uplifting words about their father then spits on the casket. This ignites a dormant fued the two sets of brothers have grown up with. The father was a drunk man years ago, and walked out on Son and the boys. When he recovered, and became a born again christian, he started a new family and neglected the boys entirely.
What transpires later involves violence and loss of lives, but that is not really what this movie is about. To me it was about the deep resentment and hate these boys grew up with after their father left. Their mother became bitter and directed her hatred towards her husbands other family. She taught the boys to hate them as well. I don’t think people fully know how much impact they have on their children. How bitterness and hatred is passed on so easily.
“Shotgun Stories” is one of the best movies of 2008. It is a movie that you will have to seek out, because it will not be widely distributed, if it hits theatres at all. Please do look for it, even if you have to see it on DVD. It is a truly haunting film. One that will have a lasting impression on me for a long time.