Film Review: Barking Water

Director Sterlin Harjo tells the story of true loves who are always leaving each other.

By Roya Rastegar Oct 28, 2009

October 28, 2009

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Barking Water
(Directed by Sterlin Harjo)

Irene and Frankie have been on-again, off-again lovers for more than 40 years. Although they mean everything to each other, he keeps leaving her, and she keeps not forgiving him. Now Frankie is dying, and Irene, like so many times before, is going to help him just this once. Together, they break Frankie out of the hospital and set off on a road trip home so that he can make amends and see his daughter and new grandbaby.

Spurred by such road-trip dramas as what music gets played and how loud, their winding route drives a profound reflection on their fractured relationship. Writer/director Sterlin Harjo’s sage second feature establishes him as a mainstay in American cinema for articulating the multiplicity and subtleties of Native experiences. Resisting any temptation to neatly absolve Frankie of his mistakes because of his terminal illness or surrender Irene to a sentimentally motivated forgiveness, Harjo allows ambiguity and irresolvable emotion to travel across the screen and reveal honest, complex characters and deep-seated wants. An inherent affection for his home state Oklahoma’s landscape and its people is palpable in this tender, poignant film. 

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