Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Blood on Her Name

Leigh Tiller has made some terrible decisions in her life, but let’s blame her problematic father for them. That’s what she does. It was certainly ill-advised to marry a crook and maintain his chop shop business while he is in the big house, but killing one of his violent associates will really be a doozy. Naturally, the cover-up makes everything worse in Matthew Pope’s Blood on Her Name, which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Even with the off-the-books work, Tiller is struggling to make ends meet. Partly it is due to the restitution payments her sullen son Ryan still owes after blinding a would-be bully in a violent altercation. With a son on probation and a husband in the pen, Tiller panics after killing the latter’s former partner. It was an instinctive decision that she did not think out. Clearly, the cuts and bruises on her face suggest something happened. There is also a body to dispose of, but Tiller rather rashly returns him to his swampy home, so at least his wife and son will have some closure. Empathy—it might just be the end of her.

Of course, one darned thing happens after another for Tiller. Soon she is lying to everyone. She might even have to turn to her father Richard, but since he is the corrupt local sheriff, he could probably fix her problems.

Sometimes it is entertaining to watch hapless characters dig themselves deeper and deeper holes and sometimes it is painful to watch, because there is something about them that strikes a chord with us. In this case, it is just excruciating to see Tiller make every wrong decision possible. Granted, it is hard to prepare yourself mentally for this kind of situation, but Tiller is just hopeless.

Yet, maybe the most tiresome aspect of Name is constant flashbacks to the time Tiller witnessed her father do something truly awful during her childhood. We’ve seen this sort of motif before, but it is way overdone this time around.

Still, the cast is certainly first-rate, starting with Bethany Anne Lind, who is impressively gritty, self-destructive, and altogether damaged as Tiller. Reliable character actor Will Patton is entertainingly sly and salty as the old man. Jimmy Gonzales is terrific as Reynoso Dias, Tiller’s mechanic and potential love interest, who serves as the film’s conscience. However, the biggest surprise is an almost unrecognizable Elisabeth Rohm, looking weathered and emotionally distraught as the widowed Dani Wilson.

Pope infuses Name with a strong sense of its back-country milieu and he gets some great work out of his cast. Unfortunately, impulsive and contrived plot points quickly become exhausting. Even though it is just under 90 minutes, viewers will feel relieved when it is finally over. Not good enough to recommend, Blood on Her Name opens this Friday (2/28), at the Laemmle Monica Film Center.