The 2022 Nashville Film Festival is going on right now and I had the chance to check out the world premiere of Alta Valley. I share my thoughts on the film and let you know if you should check it out when it becomes available.
Written & Directed By: Jesse Edwards
Starring: Briza Covarrubias, Allee-Sutton Hethcoat, Micah Fitzgerald, Paula Miranda, and Paulette Horton-Lamori
Plot: Unable to pay for her mother’s medical treatment, Lupe Reyes, a Mexican-Navajo mechanic, ventures to Alta Valley to seek financial help from her estranged father, Carl. On the way, she befriends Maddy Monroe, an outlaw cowgirl on the run from a Mexican mob boss. When they finally meet Carl, his vile crimes are revealed, including his illegal trades and the mistreatment of Lupe’s distant Navajo family. In order to save her mother, Lupe must defend herself, her heritage, and overthrow the insidious exploitation of her people and their land.
We have seen an exciting run in Western films over the last few years, including Old Henry (at last year’s Nashville Film Festival) and The Harder They Fall (Netflix), which brought some great awareness back into this genre. So, Alta Valley needed to really land on several important keys to make this movie work.
First, within the Western genre, you need a great script, score, and, even more essential, great acting. Because if any one of these is off, the movie just won’t work. The script and score will go hand in hand because, in those slower moments of the film, the score will have to be good enough to carry us through them. The acting will have to fill out the rest.
The movie has a rough-around-the-edges build as it felt a little slow, and the story didn’t captivate you. However, the film ramps up once we get introduced to Maddy as she is in the middle of fighting for her life while Lupe is in the middle of trying to buy a gun. One thing leads to another, and Maddy and Lupe end up on the run together.
While there are certain aspects of this film that works, there are others that don’t. First, you have some strong acting from our two leads, Briza Covarrubias and Allee Sutton Hethcoat. Both of these ladies share a strong chemistry that helps elevate the emotional aspect of the film. Covarrubias is a star in her own right, as her ability to captivate you in the little moments stood out. Next, I didn’t love the rest of the cast within this because when faced across Covarrubias and Hethcoat, it was a massive difference which hurts the overall film.
While the movie has its flaws, I was pretty impressed with Jesse Edwards’s work on the project. Edwards wore so many hats in this movie (director, writer, cinematography) that I can’t help but wonder that maybe he did a little too much. With that being said, his first feature was impressive enough that it excites me to see what is ahead.
Overall, Alta Valley is a solid western with some good things that outweigh the not-so-good stuff. It is definitely worth checking out if you have the chance.