IFFBoston Review: ‘Beneath The Harvest Sky’

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Film: Beneath The Harvest Sky
Directed by: Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly
Starring: Emory Cohen, Callan McAuliffe

Growing up in the middle of nowhere it can be hard to understand at a young age just how different you are from your peers. Your entire life has been spent with the same group of people in the same classrooms learning the same material, presumably progressing at the same speed, and more or less encountering the same ‘coming of age’ most experience before leaving high school, so what do you possess within that could possibly set you apart?

Beneath The Harvest Sky tells the story of Casper and Dominic, two lifelong friends on the verge of finishing their high school career. They have have spent their entire lives hanging out and have plans to do the same for the foreseeable future, but it does not take long to realize life has chosen different paths for the boys. Dominic is smart, driven, and likely to receive a scholarship for school (if he can decide on something he wants to do). Casper, on the other hand, struggles in school and has a home life that only encourages bad behavior. To make matters worse, he’s just learned his underage girlfriend is potentially pregnant and his struggle to not overreact to the news resulted in a short term suspension from school.

The only thing Dominic and Casper have to look forward to is the one week break they get from school for the annual potato harvest in their small Maine town. Dominic has a job helping a local farmer, but once he finishes his work he and Casper are essentially inseparable. This would be unlike any year before, but this time Casper’s father has chosen to spend the break helping his son learn the ins and outs of the family business, which he in turn shares with Dominic when the two are alone.

There is a sense of impending doom from the opening moments of Beneath The Harvest Sky, but it builds so slowly that it remains in the shadows for the majority of the film’s first hour. The week Casper and Dominic embark on is the most challenging of their lives in more ways than one, and filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly have provided a front row seat to the show so visceral you can almost feel the dirt of the potato field crackling beneath your feet. There are no over-the-top cinematic moments or grandiose tracking shots per say, but frame after frame of picturesque settings and beautifully lit moments with quality acting to match.

There are downsides to quiet town storytelling, specifically when you’re trying to tell a coming of age story with roots in familiar setups. The film clips along at a good pace, but it isn’t until the first half has passed that it really begins to come into its own. When that happens, the film’s biggest issue seems to be deciding when to pull the trigger on the eventual unraveling you knew was coming from the opening sequence. It takes a while to get there, nearly 2/3 of the runtime in fact, but once the dominos begin to fall the film pulls itself together for a fitting ending that may challenge certain viewers to reflect upon their own path in life.

Much like life the rural area of Maine that serves as the film’s background Beneath The Harvest Sky is admittedly not likely to be a film you frequent for years to come, but it’s definitely worth a visit. It is a small movie about a big moment in the lives of two best friends told in a way that often reaches the kind of indie greatness every coming-of-age story hopes for without feeling too contrived. It’s original right down to its bones, resulting in a realistic and engrossing story about the journey to adulthood in the modern age whose core message feel timeless in the way all great lessons do.

Score: B

Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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