Holly Hunter is the beating heart of Katherine Dieckmann’s Strange Weather – an offbeat Southern road trip drama.
Strange Weather follows Darcy Baylor (Hunter) a grieving mother who travels the South attempting to find out why her son committed suicide seven years prior. Joined by her best friend, Byrd (Carrie Coon), Darcy travels amidst the baking Southern heat to track down her son’s friends who may have answers about his death.
Dieckmann’s tale is one of putting demons to rest and embracing new beginnings – and in doing so becomes an intriguing, somewhat touching look at the grieving process. Darcy has been haunted by the mystery surrounding her son’s suicide, plagued with seven years of pain and desperation for answers. Dieckmann does an impressive job at painting Darcy as a tragic curiosity by those outside her close friendship group – a woman who has become labelled by the tragedy that befell her family. As the narrative progresses, we see Darcy grow and shake off that reputation as she gains closer to her answers and settling her demons.
There is a touching friendship at the heart of the project between Darcy and Byrd – with Coon’s Byrd understanding and accepting of Darcy’s obsessive desperation for answers. The actresses have a light, genuine chemistry which makes their offbeat adventure a pleasant watch. Hunter is magnificent in her exploration of the manifestation of grief – given a particular tragic focus in the fact that this is a mother who outlived her son. Hunter captures the sense of guilt and shame that is felt by the families of suicide victims, yet she does this whilst bring her buoyant energy and dynamism to Strange Weather – no easy task.
Dieckmann’s narrative is so focussed on capturing Darcy’s journey, that it can often be a little too straight-laced. There is a lack of narrative excitement or tension throughout the middle act of Strange Weather which can lessen the film’s overall impact. Whilst Hunter and Coon continue to be watchable here, it would have been refreshing if Dieckmann embraced the fun of the pairing slightly more and spent a little more time crafting a sense of playfulness and friendship between the pair.
Sharon Van Etten’s soundtrack captures a woozy Americana paralleled in David Rush Morrison’s sun-baked Southern cinematography. Strange Weather has a distinctive aesthetic character with the weather conditions – a scorching and later flood-soaked South – making a distinctive canvas for Darcy’s personal journey.