Stephen Whitty

Columnist, critic for national and international outlets. Author, lecturer, host.

Nov 9, 2021
1 min read

Forrest has gone adrift – literally.

Unsure of where he’s heading in life, he’s decided to head nowhere. Retreating to a small sailboat on a big Missouri lake, he meanders, living off his small savings and whatever catfish he can catch.

And then he meets a pretty young woman, Everly. And things take a new, and complicated direction.

Forrest and Everly are guided by love, and in love with challenges, and so, it seems, is Trevor Hawkins, who directed, wrote, photographed – and financed — Lotawana himself. Yet the risk paid off, artistically. His movie is lovely, and haunting.

It’s not for everyone, and can sometimes be a bit elliptical – that word critics use when they like something, but don’t want to slap it with “vague.” Lotawana begins a bit in the middle of things, without clear explanation or simple facts. It ends the same way.

But the journey between is beautiful.

Hawkins’ previous work is in nature and wildlife photography, so it should be no surprise that the film looks gorgeous. Suffused with an almost Terrence Malick reverence for the natural world, it gazes at sunsets and turtles with equal, mystical wonder.

But the film also has a tender respect for people, and the way – like a river – their feelings for each other can ebb and flow.

Todd Blubaugh’s Forrest is a calm, uncomplicated man – but how much is his bohemian retreat really just a refusal to engage with the world? Nicola Collie’s Everly seems gentle and open – but she’s clearly been hurt, in the past, and barely resists a dangerous resentment.

In a perfect world, they’d come together for a summer fling – then part, bittersweetly, in September. But nothing is ever perfect, and the more they try to make their love last the harder it becomes.

Like its characters, Lotawana tends to drift at times. Nothing much happens for the first half hour, and while it’s pleasant to look at pretty people sailing, it’s hard not to get impatient. Even if our heroes don’t care where they’re going, shouldn’t the film set a course?

But then it does. And, soon, picks up speed, heading towards a collision that anyone can see coming – and yet no one can do anything to avoid.

Even then, things take a while to wrap up – and, really, even then don’t so much conclude, as softly fade away. This is not a film of hard edges, and clear conclusions. But it is one with a real eye for beauty – and an appreciation of just how magical it can be to simply float.

4 stars (out of 5)

Lotawana