Beneath the Harvest Sky | Aron Gaudet & Gita Pullapilly | April 18, 2014 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Bildungsroman stories have been around for centuries, and now comes Beneath the Harvest Sky, perhaps the first I can think of that’s set in rural Maine.
With the annual blue potato harvest and illegal drug dealing and trafficking driving the plot forward, the film peeks into the lives of Casper (Emory Cohen, The Place Beyond The Pines) and Dominic (Callan McAuliffe), two high school students of different backgrounds living in the suburban border town of Van Buren, ME. The two are best buddies with the goal of moving down to Boston after graduating. Dom’s personal goal is to earn enough from his harvest jobs to buy a used sports car, but Casper isn’t as motivated. Still, he helps Dom fix up an abandoned house that’s their private clubhouse or escape. In his downtime, he helps his sleazy father Clayton (Aidan Gillen, Calvary) secure prescription meds from empty houses and the local elderly, and Clayton eventually recruits him to assist with moving drugs across the border into Canada. This is the perfect impetus for Casper to step up and start being a breadwinner for his pregnant girlfriend Tasha. But in these real-world stories, people have other motivations and machinations, which come into play as the plot progresses.
Beneath the Harvest Sky unfolds slowly over the course of a little under two hours, building to a shocking climax in the last fifteen minutes, but it does seem too slow at times. I can see how Gaudet and Pullapilly’s prior documentary work shines through here, but there isn’t much in the way of a compelling story to go on. Sure, the border town drug trade may seem interesting, but it takes a back seat to the high school drama until Dom and Casper get caught up in the business – which comes over halfway into the film. As for Gillen, maybe I’ve become over-saturated, what with Game of Thrones and more recently Calvary, but an air of Littlefinger (but with a slight Maine accent) still presents itself. If anything, Beneath the Harvest Sky nails the feel of rural high school life, but perhaps at the cost of not fully connecting with the characters and being light on a driving plot. Or just maybe I’ve just outgrown some bildungsroman stories.