Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 2020
Directed by
Scott Teems
98 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Quarry

There’s not horse or a saloon in sight but The Quarry is a Western, one that despite its minor key richly resonates with the themes of sin, guilt, forgiveness and redemption.

Scott Teems’ spare, laconic film opens with a man (Bruno Bichir) drinking steadily from a wine bottle as he drives through West Texas. He passes someone lying at the side of the road and turns back to investigate. He puts the stranger (Shea Whigham) in his van and they continue on. He explains to the stranger who is clearly troubled but offers no explanation of how he came to be in the middle of nowhere that he is a pastor and will be taking up a post at a little town further on. Shortly before they reach the town the preacher, David Martin, pulls in at an abandoned quarry and offers to hear the man’s confession. The latter refuses the offer and in a brief altercation accidentally kills Martin. He then assume the preacher’s identity and heads to the town and its small frame church where he meets the housekeeper, Celia (Catalina Sandino Moreno), and, after his van is broken into, the town’s sheriff, Chief John Moore (Michael Shannon), who can’t quite reconcile himself to the man’s taciturn demeanour.  The townsfolk, largely uneducated Mexicans, however, see in his willingness to brand himself a sinner, a true Man of God. As the man finds solace in the words of the Bible, so his flock grows.

These are the main ingredients of The Quarry, a marvellously subdued but unremitting film that, much like the work of the Coen Brothers, depends for its success on the happy marriage of form and content which in turn depends on the talent fore and aft of the camera.

Teems, with the aid co-writer Andrew Brotzman, cinematographer Michael Alden Lloyd and composer Heather McIntosh, tells a story in which all the protagonists are experiencing some kind of spiritual malaise. The Man has killed. Of Celia, who spends a lot of time lying on her bed, smoking and telling her rosary, we only know that, as she tells The Man, she has “a lot of hate in her heart”. The Chief who had wanted to be admired in the community like his father and who is having a desultory relationship with Celia is trapped in the now-backwater town which is mainly populated by “wetbacks” after the highway bypassed it. Even the real and deceased alcoholic David Martin had had an affair with a married woman, the reason, we assume, for his taking up this new parish.

Over and above the actual events, and for all its terseness The Quarry is surprisingly tense as we are never sure how long The Man’s deception will withstand scrutiny (Teems draws out the climactic scene in the makeshift courtroom to its maximum in this respect)  the film invites us to observe the characters as they observe themselves and each other. The result is intriguing

Whilst no doubt much of the success of The Quarry derives from the novel (which  I have not read) by Damon Galgut on which it is based, one feels that Teems and his collaborators have done justice to the contemplative spirit informing its familiar Western conventions .

FYI: If you enjoyed this film check out Jeff Nichols’ 2011 film Take Shelter in which Shannon starred and Whigham also appeared.  For another neo-Western with a ruminative bent check out Jacques Audriard’s 2018 film The Sisters Brothers.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst