"Prairie Love," from writer/director Dusty Bias, is an extremely low-budget indie that hopes that you will be captivated by its eccentricity and quirkiness. It has an unusual and appealing story that might have been mined for big laughs or intense drama. Bias, instead, keeps things on an even keel with a very understated tone. If you watch a lot of independent cinema, you'll recognize many of the arty conventions here. There is stilted dialogue, meaningful silences and stagnant camera shots taken from abstract angles. All of these things can and have been used to good affect in numerous other films, but "Prairie Love" starts to feel a little monotonous due to pacing issues. It's a real shame too, because I love the central plot line of the film and found the actors strangely appealing. As a odd love story, the screenplay comes close to succeeding. And as a comedy, there are hints of a great movie in evidence. Bias has a wonderful and original idea for a movie, but it just wasn't fully satisfying for me.
The tale takes place in the frozen land known as North Dakota. As depicted here, the isolation and emptiness makes it feel a bit more like the Arctic! A drifter (Jeremy Clark) happens upon a traveler (Garth Blomberg) lying in the middle of the road in the process of freezing to death. He thaws the fellow off but not before perusing his personal belongings. He is intrigued by a series of love letters from a woman in a local prison. Socially awkward and in desperate need of company, he starts to idealize the notion of romancing the lady who sent the letters. So he hatches a scheme to meet her. Holly Lynn Ellis plays the woman in question and is an interesting mix of quirk and vulnerability. The two embark on a strange courtship. There are moments of subtle humor, but also a sadness infused into the screenplay. Both Clark and Ellis are effective, but we never dig too deeply into actual character development.
More than anything, I think that "Prairie Love" is supposed to be darkly amusing. And it generally is. Although I found the characters intriguing, I never felt close enough to them to feel genuinely connected to the movie. There are many great moments within the film, but these parts never gelled cohesively into a bigger picture. In the end, I liked "Prairie Love" without having much passion for it. I think Bias shows great promise, however, for the picture is odd and unique. The film is only 81 minutes, but ended up feeling much longer due to the camera work and pacing. A near miss for me. The DVD also has a bizarre, but pleasing, short called "A Family Portrait." This five minute animated clip from Britain is strange and amusing. It shows a family sitting for a photographer as they struggle to maintain composure while their inner thoughts manifest in unlikely ways. Definitely fun. Overall, the DVD rated about 3 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 11/12.