Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere’ and ‘Trust Me’


‘LOVE & TERROR ON THE HOWLING PLAINS OF NOWHERE’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, SUNDANCE, VUDU, YOUTUBE)

In the winter of 2006, a college professor in Chadron, Neb., disappeared, and once he was found, created a mystery that the residents are still struggling with today. Pronounced a suicide by law enforcement, some in the town think there is much more to the death, and its bizarre nature casts doubt on it for viewers, as well. But there’s another question the film asks, and it requires diving into the extreme depths of a person’s soul and mind to figure out if just because something doesn’t make logical sense to us, based on our experiences, does that necessarily mean it’s not true.

Taking the mantle of guide through this story is writer Ed Hughes, who under his pen name Poe Ballantine, wrote a book about the incident. Hughes is a philosophical sort that excels at giving higher meaning to unassuming details, as well as inserting his own experience and emotions into the wider story. Other townspeople are also swept into the narrative tide, each bringing their own circumstances to the perception of the story of this college professor.

Rather than getting to some clinical truth, this film veers from so many other true crime efforts to study not just the facts of the crime, but what the crime means to other people, how we interpret clues based on our own biases and how these factors come together to create wider narratives that become legend for some, history for others but always take a life of their own beyond the true incidents that birth them.

In this way, it’s a profound film about human nature, orchestrated by an author whose interest is certainly in the real human story behind the crime, but also in the elements of human storytelling, the origins of lore and what makes a community.


‘TRUST ME’ (HULU)

More often than not, we wouldn’t have television series if people didn’t make stupid decisions. It’s the central trait that most main characters in TV shows, and movies, too, for that matter, share. And, thank goodness. How boring would it be if fictional characters just made all the right moves?

In “Trust Me,” the current “Doctor Who” star Jodie Whitaker plays a nurse whose life falls apart, but the universe hands her a unique opportunity to recoup the whole thing if she doesn’t mind the high level of stress that comes with it. Seizing on a moment, Whitaker takes on the identity of a friend, who is moving to New Zealand and uses her credentials to get a job as a doctor in Scotland.

The British islands aren’t huge though, and while Scotland must seem a world away to a nurse in Sheffield, we viewers at home know that her decision is fraught with problems. The world of British medicine has to be a tiny one, right? She’s eventually going to be found out, isn’t she?

Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out, but I can promise you will have some good melodrama while you do. Whitaker ingratiates herself on the hospital staff in the form of the Perfect Doctor — how ironic — and has staff fawning over her professionally and personally. For her part, she’s never been treated so well on the job, so she’s going to try and make the whole thing work as best she can.

Whitaker is great in this role — a powder keg just waiting to blow big given the pressure she’s under, and yet trying to channel all her panic into energetic doctoring, which plays out well in some extremely tense and exciting emergency room scenes.


Originally published at https://www.berkshireeagle.com on April 26, 2019.

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