Movie Review: After Austin Film Festival 2023, The Big Bend has Theatrical Release in Austin, TX

Written and directed by Brett Wagner, The Big Bend is a unique mix of reality and fiction. It is based on an incident in which one of his friend’s children (The Big Bend’s film’s producer Aaron Brown) was briefly lost in the national park. It’s an experience that stuck with him, and that’s where the idea for the film came from a family vacation that takes a chilling turn in the West Texas desert.

SYNOPSIS: In the unknowable reaches of West Texas, two families meet for a long overdue reunion — but events quickly don’t go as planned. As they explore the desert, bathe in mud, and keep a wary eye out for snakes, the dust motes of menace and unease begin to swirl around them. When crisis strikes, they have nobody to turn to but themselves. THE BIG BEND follows the adventure of these two families in a hauntingly dangerous environment, creating an unforgettable portrait of marriage, friendship, parenthood, and survival.

Corey Price (Jason Butler Harner, “Ozark, Monster” TV series) and family (wife Melanie (Virginia Kull, “Big Little Lies” TV series) take a road trip to Texas to visit their friends, Mac (David Sullivan, Sharp Objects) and Georgia Talbott (Erica Ash, We Have A Ghost). Terlingua is at the edge of the Big Bend National Park. Each couple has their stressors, and the relationships are tested.

The landscape in the Big Bend has grand scenery, with mountains and deserts providing respite for the visiting family, who find it breathtakingly beautiful. There are trails to hike, and the families explore. One evening, daughter Fiona (Delilah Wagner, the filmmaker’s daughter) strays away from the trail to explore. The families consider her missing and contact the local authorities for help. In the meantime, Fiona has kept going and sees a remote house. She is hungry and approaches, not knowing an escaped convict named Karl (Nick Masciangelo, The Wind & the Reckoning) is hiding out. Karl takes care of Fiona and helps her go back to her family. He uses a makeshift vehicle and, to keep her safe comes up with an option for her to ride securely on the dirt roads. Stress is wearing them down.

The performances are solid, both adults and children, with standout moments, especially in the most dramatic scenes. The actors excel in authentically showing the anxiety of having a child missing, even before they learn of a prisoner on the loose. This movie should be noticed.

Writer/ director Brett Wagner’s daughter, Zoe Wagner, is also a cast member as Olive Price. Texas native Shakey Graves (Alejandro Rose—Garcia) has a cameo in the film and provides the music. Julian Cassia is also credited with music. Donny Dust is the film’s wilderness survival expert and set medic.

The Big Bend opens May 31 in Austin, TX, at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Friday and Saturday opening night will feature Q&As with Brett Wagner and the cast. Additional markets in Dallas, Houston, and more will follow.

Source: Eammon Films

Leave a comment