Blood on the Leaves

In Philadelphia, an inner-city African-American kid (Imani Khiry) is stuck with a dead body to get rid of. In rural Pennsylvania, a middle class white man (Bill Nally) goes out bow hunting for the day, trying to forget his worries about money. And in Blood on the Leaves, the two of them manage to run into each other in the middle of the woods with serious and strange consequences.

The reveal of their names is important, so I'll just call them City and Country. City calls the hunter Country a lot anyway, among other, less-palatable names, since unsurprisingly there's instant culture clash. But City needs help: he's hurt and trapped after an accident and there's still this embarrassing dead body that needs burying. When Country stumbles across said body, City pulls out his gun and a tense standoff ensues.

Worse, the dead body has caused other problems for City that he isn't fully aware of. Jamal (Carl Clemons) and Rio (Brendon Taylor) are hunting for City to find out if he has some money that he isn't supposed to have, and while he might hang out with them sometimes they aren't all that concerned about City's well-being.

But it's City and Country who steal the show. Both are out of their element -- City knows nothing about surviving in the woods, and though Country is used to rifles he isn't used to handguns being pointed at him -- but neither one wants to admit how overwhelmed they are. They've made assumptions about each other and as usual, assumptions are nothing but trouble. And when their tempers finally break and the truth comes out, they learn just as much about themselves as they do about each other.

The movie doesn't flinch away from anything. The language is graphic, of course, but more than that the ideas presented are eternal and eternally difficult to deal with. We're all forced to make decisions based on past experiences, but does that mean we're all bound by the past and can never really change? Can two people ever be different enough that the differences outweigh their shared humanity?

Country and City have to face their prejudices under dire and difficult circumstances, but they don't flinch away from them, either. It's hard to look away even when the movie is tackling the most uncomfortable issues. The acting is excellent and their story deceptively simple. It's never just about surviving in the wilderness; it's about surviving and still being able to look at yourself in the mirror afterwards.

Image: 
Country out walking through the gorgeous, er, countryside.

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