By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Starring Bethany Anne Lind, Will Patton, and Elisabeth Röhm
Directed by Matthew Pope
Written by Don M. Thompson and Matthew Pope
Yellow Veil Pictures
Some films ease you into their world and characters, but BLOOD ON HER NAME is not one of those films. It starts already bloodied, struggling, and paranoid. Though the plot is not necessarily anything you have not seen before, the complex characters and raw performances make it a welcome visit to genre cinema.
The movie opens with Leigh (Bethany Anne Lind) next to a body. She has been knocked around pretty good, judging from the state of injuries on her face, but clearly she won the fight in the end. She is in a bit of a panic and does not seem interested in calling the cops about what just happened. Within minutes she is trying to clean up the mechanic’s shop and get rid of all the evidence she can.
From here, BLOOD ON HER NAME picks at this singular thread of what happened to lead up to this point, and how Leigh tries to deal with the consequences. She is not stupid or incompetent, but she is emotional and human. She is also very obviously not a career criminal and makes decisions based on what a regular person would likely do, given her resources.This is the main crux of the film: watching a regular person deal with extraordinary conditions.
Inevitably bound to be compared to BLUE RUIN, BLOOD ON HER NAME lacks the revenge angle but does feature an endlessly empathetic main character. She is just trying to do what is right, right now. Complicating her situation is family. Her son (Jared Ivers) is trying to pull himself out his own trouble with the law, while her father (Will Patton) is the sheriff in town and the law itself. When the dead man’s wife becomes aware of his passing (Elisabeth Röhm), it gets even messier.
The brilliance of BLOOD ON HER NAME lies with the characters, and mainly Leigh herself. Lind’s performance conveys a complexity we rarely see on screen. She is never just in a single mode; she is scared and angry, sad and guilty, regretful and protective. We see on her face that she is a woman torn in many directions, with no help and no clear path to forgiveness. Her character is deftly written and multifaceted, and the enormous task of making her come alive without any unnecessarily theatrics is perfectly brought to screen. At times, the tension is so high, you might forget to breathe. Though we have seen similar films in the past, it is unclear precisely where the plot is headed at any given moment. Leigh is most certainly not in control of her fate, as hard as she tries.
BLOOD ON HER NAME is tight, tense, and buoyed by a phenomenal lead performance. Such solid filmmaking is a rare delicacy nowadays.