Redemption Trail is a story that unfolds slowly with a certain inevitability; set on a rural vineyard in Oakland, it doesn’t seem like the world exists outside the fences of the warm, summery fields. Whatever happens within this world is fated to happen. Written and directed by Britta Sjogren, the movie focuses on two women that force each other to face their demons while forgiving themselves in the process.
Tess (Lisa Gay Hamilton) lives hermetically on her employer’s vineyard; seemingly afraid of nothing, she lives within a shell of unresolved anger. Anna (portrayed by Lily Rabe of American Horror Story fame) is broken by a recent tragedy and only wishes to leave her past self behind - something that proves to be near impossible.
Redemption Trail is a "modern day Western", a description I met with a little suspicion. What, are we going to see Rabe dressed as a smartphone-whipping cowboy ride off into the sunset like she’s in True Grit 2? Yet calling it a Western describes it perfectly; there are gun slingers, wild steeds, and an open ended sense of hope and questioning.
Though their world is contained by the boundaries of the vineyard, the two women's micro-universe aptly reflects all of the complex issues of our entire world. They deal with issues of family, gender-stereotype expectations, rape, violence, immigration, and loss in an authentic internal journey that leads to their titular redemption.
Though their reality is genuine, the communication of it is stilted in parts. Apart from that and some questionable dream sequences, the film effortlessly captures the nebulous grey area of these women’s lives, the nuanced grieving and internal wrestling that most films sum up in a “breakdown-in-a-bathroom”-style scene.
This film also portrays each character as a real person, rather than one riddled with clichés and bound by stereotypes. They are awkward, personable, and unafraid of silence. Hamilton and Rabe play extremely strong women under unique circumstances, but never once does a stereotype become their definition. Rabe doesn’t play a mother, Hamilton doesn’t play a lover. They play and empower real women; they are complicated heroes that refuse to be pigeonholed.
This film is a refreshing reminder that inner demons don’t discriminate and neither does the road to forgiveness. Watch the trailer below and catch Redemption Trail at Arena Cinema from June 27th to July 3rd or purchase it August 12 on DVD!