‘A Perfect Day For Caribou’ – Review (Slamdance Film Festival)

Charlie Plummer and Jeb Berrier both give beautifully tragic performances in a strong debut from Jeff Rutherford.

*This review has a twitter warning for discussion of suicide.*

For a debut feature, something with personal sentimentality is usually where people go. It is the easiest thing to write about given the attachment and can also be incredibly affecting to an audience that feels that same way. In A Perfect Day for Caribou writer and director, Jeff Rutherford both thematically and visually displays a tragic story of a father and son.

Sitting in his truck, Herman (Jeb Berrier) is talking into a tape recorder. He is speaking to his son Nate (Charlie Plummer), telling him about a life he never knew and trying to explain some of the wrongs he did. He has filled his truck with items for Nate to keep, with plans of committing suicide. Before he does, he gets a call from Nate asking him to meet at the local cemetery. When Herman arrives, he is greeted by Nate and his seven-year-old son Ralph. Nate tells him of his son, how he is currently working on the night shift as a middle-school janitor, and doing everything he can to try to give his son a good life. As Nate and Herman talk, Ralph wanders off, leading the father and son to trek through the terrain forcing them to connect for the first time in years. Herman is quick to find out that Nate’s life isn’t so different from his own. He tells his dad about the difficulties of trying to raise a child as a young father, and the issues he is having with his wife Sandy, and his dad tells him how his experiences were similar to his son’s.

Generational trauma is the driving force for what A Perfect Day for Caribou is all about. Herman’s father’s trauma was passed onto him, who passed it on to Nate, who is trying so hard not to pass it on to his son. For a movie primarily about reflection, Rutherford demonstrates his talents as both writer and director by only showing what absolutely needs to be seen, and understanding that less equals more. He has confidence in his script, letting his actors tell the story rather than trying to over-visualize it.

Luckily for Rutherford, his actors were more than up for the challenge. Berrier’s performance is strong, displaying a father who only feels regret for the way his life has gone, but it is Plummer (a breakout star in the A24 drama Lean on Pete) who is truly magnificent in this film. Nate is only in his early twenties, but he is broken. This is articulated through the words he speaks to his father, the pain he feels trying to give his son a good life, and the resentment he feels towards his wife, stating how he sometimes wishes she would die. But the embarrassment he feels as a father is shown through his looks. It’s the words he doesn’t say that manage to strike harder than the ones he does truly, displaying Plummer’s natural ability as an actor.

The expressions from the actors mean so much more given the black-and-white setting, a choice that works really well in this film. The monochromatic look and somber acoustic score highlight the anguish these two men share by stripping back the color of their lives and only leaving the joylessness they both share. The pacing of the film is slow, and even if it is too slow in places, it spotlights the lingering effects that this sort of trauma can cause.

A Perfect Day for Caribou is a slow and meticulous look at the pain caused by generational trauma and how this is a constant battle that is passed down. Plummer and Berrier both give beautifully tragic performances in a strong debut from Rutherford.

Grade: B+

Oscar Prospects:
Likely: None
Should be Considered: Best Cinematography

Release Date: TBA
Where to Watch: TBA

Jacob Throneberry
he/him @Tberry57
Loves movies, the awards season, and this dog (even if he isn’t his).
Favorite Director: Bo Burnham
Sign: Leo

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