There is a weekly film series in Fairhope, over at the building that used to be the Episcopal Church, just two or three blocks from my house. They show movies that anyone could rent, just not necessarily ones that we do, so some of us are willing to shell out $4 for the priviledge of going out to the movies in our own neighborhood. The nearest bona fide cinemaplex is up at the mall, at least 30 minutes away through bothersome traffic.
Last night’s show was one I had been planning to see: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. A thoughtful parable set in the contemporary West, it involves a sad story of a cruel border guard, his hapless victim, and a good-hearted Texan who wants to see wrongs avenged.
Not my usual chick-flick fare (I had been thinking of renting The Break Up, and would have had the video store not been out of copies), but I absolutely loved the film. It was full of odd stories, lonely and empty characters, and situations I would never have been able to anticipate. Directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, it had the kind of integrity you expect from him – solemn, wise, and somewhat inscrutable. Beautiful, desolate, dusty West Texas settings helped with the evocative and gut-wrenching saga. A pretty actress (who happens to be January Jones, Tommy Lee's daughter) played a vapid young woman, bringing a sincerity and appeal to an extremely thankless role. Dwight Yoakum, with the awkwardness of an amateur who is perfectly cast, was convincing as the lawman who wanted out of the whole thing.
Somehow I loved Julio Cézar Cedillo, the actor playing the title role, from his first entrance and the line, “Vaqueiro. No Mas,” when he was asked his line of work. With flashbacks and forward cuts we are taken through his story and he is like a shining light throughout the film, even as a corpse. Just as Barry Pepper personifies a man beyond rememption, his presence makes life worth living and doing everything possible to redeem the most despicable. Melissa Leo was spot-on as the waitress with a sideline of entertaining all the available men in town.
I could find nothing to fault in the film. I left it with a few questions and would like to find someone else who saw it to discuss it with, so I recommend it to you. Maybe when we get together we'll remember to solve some of the riddles of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.