“THE SCENT OF RAIN & LIGHTNING” is based on the novel of the same title by Nancy Pickard and is directed by Blake Robbins. The film stars; Maika Monroe, Will Patton, Justin Chatwin, Maggie Grace, Aaron Poole, Brad Carter, and Mark Webber.
The story follows Jody Linder, who has been told her parents killer is being released from prison due to a commuted sentence. This ignites a swirl of emotions for Jody as she has no choice but to revisit the tragic events of her childhood. Which begins to unearth clues that the night her parents were killed, did not go exactly as she was told, and that her family may have many dark secrets under their secure facade.
Now going into this review, I will admit I have not read the book, so in regards to its comparison to this movie, I couldn’t tell you. But as a full-feature film on its own, this was a steady, foreboding mystery with perfectly woven in dramatic themes. A good mystery is at its best when it builds a smooth tension throughout the acts and delivers a rewarding conclusion, and that was exactly what this movie delivered.
Blake Robbins direction was subtle but precise in its approach and creates a more intimate look at this ranching family. With great use of lighting, simple angles, and a softer color pallet, Robbins strips away the Hollywood gloss and makes the viewer feel like a fly on the wall, observing as the story unfolds. It results in a stronger connection to the characters and adds a heightened element to the curiosity of what will be the end result.
This script was very well-structured and peels back the many layers with a smooth flow throughout that keeps the interest high, and the unpredictability locked in until the inevitable reveal. Something else this film used to its advantage was its cast. The story-line utilized the many characters extremely well to add various personalities and a range of emotions to the layers of the plot as they are slowly unveiled.
One thing that in my opinion can hinder a story that follows multiple timelines is the implementation of the flashback sequences. They can often create a fractured flow between the parallels but this film uses them in a compelling way to piece in vital information to the plot, at the right time. The result was a smooth transition between the current day scenes and the flashbacks, as well as just the right balance of both.
Robbins also frame these shots up in the right way, giving them just a slight tweak in visual appearance to give the scenes a vague memory feel and I absolutely enjoyed the subtlety of it. He also captures the vast country-side effectively to pull you into the settings, helping connect the viewer with the story-line and characters very effectively.
As I mentioned the cast as a whole were all very well utilized, and their performances were all excellent from top-to-bottom. No one felt out of place and while Maika Monroe was in a sense the focal character, the entire cast had their moments to deliver an impression. Monroe comes in and delivers a fantastic, yet subtle performance that makes her character more personable and easy to relate with as she searches for the truth.
Will Patton was great as he always is and he felt like the perfect choice for the patriarch of this large ranching family. Maggie Grace was also excellent in her performance and continues to make an impact with her often smaller roles. She delivers the range of emotions needed for the character with ease and was an impactful addition to this already strong cast.
Now, as for the memorable performance, the most charismatic one, and the one that gave this movie the darker element that is used so well to its advantage, was that of Brad Carter. He was amazing in this role and gives the character the ominous energy that was needed to sell a very important element of this film. He clearly pours himself into this role and with his charisma he creates a handful of enjoyably tense scenes, that were absolutely effective.
Overall “The Scent of Rain & Lightning” was a well-structured mystery that holds a steady increasing element of tension. This was a highly enjoyable film layered with strong dramatic undertones. The direction was perfectly suited for the theme, the script was excellently written, the cast make the most out of the material, and I highly recommend it.