Shotgun Stories

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I have been hearing an actor’s name being heaped on with tons of praise for the last couple of years. People cannot say enough good things about Michael Shannon. “Michael Shannon is sooo great….” “Michael Shannon is such a natural…” “Michael Shannon is the father of my baby…” Today I finally sat myself down and found out what all the fuss is about. Let me tell you right now, the fuss is warranted.

Shotgun Stories follows two sets of brothers in a small town. These sets are brothers are bound together by a single father. This father left one family to start another. Michael Shannon plays Son Hayes the leader of the family that was left behind. His family resents their father walking out on them and forgetting about them. This is made plain by the speech Son delivers at his father’s funeral. This kicks a long dormant rivalry into a full-fledged war. Several things happen that result in bad tempers, dead brothers and not expressed yet always prevalent emotions. Things culminate in a sort of stand-off, western style.

I come from a town that is a lot like the one depicted in this film. The men of my hometown are hardworking folks who mostly make their living off the land or in connection to the land. They are men of  little words and even less emotion. But when they do say something, it is usually wise and to the point. But they have issues just like the rest of us and tend to hold lifelong grudges. It does suck that these three boys were left fatherless at a very early age, but do they have to take it out on the second family’s children? Does the second family need to start a small war over words said at a funeral? No, but their actions are inevitable. It is what is bred into them by their low-income circumstances, their way of life, and their upbringing.

What I like about this film is its sense of authenticity. I feel like I this could have very well happened in my home town (I am almost certain that similar events happened to acquaintances of my parents a little while back). This isn’t just the work of the excellent actors, but also the work of the great filmmaker. His shots of grain elevators, his choice of the house that Son Hayes lives in and the progression of events all add to the authenticity of this film. Every choice he made was intentional and yet it felt so natural to the mood of the film.

This was a great film with a great performance by Michael Shannon. I will definitely be checking out his other films, especially the other film that he did with Jeff Nichols, the director of this film. All of the hype I guess was right…

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