The title Montana Story specifies a specific location, one that can cure the past’s pain. The opening shot of a sunrise and its rays spreading across a stunning set of jagged mountains foretells a future of peace and promise, one needed by the story’s two main characters. The plot returns a grown brother and sister who suffer from the scars of an abusive father who now lies comatose and ready to die at his Montana ranch. The cause of all the story’s grief and strife, he never speaks a word.
Dialogue goes to up-and-coming actors Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague, youthful but skilled and insightful performers. Richardson demonstrates an innate intelligence as she did playing a supporting role in The Edge of Seventeen. Teague, familiar as a villain in the remake of Stephen King’s The Stand, proves equally adept at letting small gestures reveal big emotions. The two work comfortably with the style of directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee, who take a casual, natural approach to filming. They capture small details like the diversity of ranch chickens or the informal look of lived-in rooms.
As they did when making The Deep End at Lake Tahoe, the directors let natural beauty fill the screen and tell part of the story. Using their own original script, the directors take subtle steps with symbolic elements like an aging horse or an abandoned mine that reflects elements of Dante’s inferno. They succeed at creating a soulful piece, one that sees both resolution and hope.