Fathers often dream of better lives for their sons, a universal experience that transcends borders. The new film No Man’s Land latches on to that idea in a unique way, following two fathers and their sons on opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. And like most tales of parents and dreams, this one ends in heartbreak.
The film draws its name from the area between the two countries. And the narrative follows a rancher in Texas, Bill (Frank Grillo), who lives with his wife, Monica (Andie McDowell), and his two sons, Lucas (Alex MacNicoll) and Jackson (Jake Allyn). Jackson has a tryout with the New York Yankees and a chance to make it in Baseball. While Jackson loves life on the ranch, his parents, particularly his father Bill, want him to follow his baseball dreams.
Elsewhere Gustavo (Jorge A. Jimenez), known as The Shepherd, helps people follow their dreams of a better life by crossing the border. Gustavo has his own Green Card, but after he’s unable to bring his sons and mother across legally, he plies his trade to help his family get a better life.
The lives of Gustavo and Bill collide one night as a group crosses Bill’s family land. Having suffered a loss of livestock due to fences cut by other parties seeking to escape to the U.S., Bill and Lucas are vigilantly guarding their land. When Gustavo’s group crosses, the parties clash. As Jackson rides to join his father and brother, violence ensues and Gustavo’s son is killed. That sets in motion a series of events that derail the dreams Gustavo and Bill had for their sons.
Allyn co-wrote the script for the film with David Barraza, and his brother Conner serves as director here. Jake Allyn is the focal character for the film, as he soon flees his home in Texas for Mexico after the incident, haunted by the part he played and seeking to atone. The story progresses slowly at times, but it meant to show that lines on a map are most of what separates families on either side of the border. The hopes and dreams are the same, and often the tragic consequences are the same.
Jake Allyn is a decent performer, and his brother Conner delivers some nice visuals at times. But the story is the most compelling piece of this film. I was particularly moved by the arc for Jimenez, the grieving father who at first seems to forsake his deep religious convictions for revenge but, ultimately, chooses the more difficult path of forgiveness. The ending here has its own beauty, though it’s bittersweet.
This is a good and at times compelling film. It fails to rise to the level of greatness, but I appreciated the beats of the stories and the craft these brothers put into telling the story. I’ll be curious to see what Jake and Conner Allyn do next.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.