In recent American history, many stories portrayed the true life of Native Americans with stereotypes of depression and alcohol. Novels in the past few decades, such as James Welch’s “Winter in the Blood” successfully showed us the whirlwind story of depression of an American Indian.
In the film adaptation by the directors Andrew and Alex Smith, they wanted to capture the same mood of the acclaimed novel that was published nearly 40 years ago.
With a backdrop of 1970’s Montana, the story follows an adult Indian named Virgil First Raise as he battles through his personal depression. His wife leaves him his favorite rifle as he struggles with the bottle and a couple of sexual encounters. With several flashbacks, Virgil goes through memories of his father lost to alcoholism and his brother lost at an auto accident. Virgil struggles to find his escapism with alcohol, sex and even trying to leave town with a mysterious Caucasian guy referred as the Airplane Man. In the end, he had to find counsel with an old Indian Yellow Calf in order to embrace his life and origins.
“Winter in the Blood” is a beautiful film with great cinematography of Montana’s countryside, mountain landscapes and a simple small town. Just like Welch’s book, it captures the mood of the life struggles of an American Indian who is trying to place himself in the struggles in the 1970s. The performances by Native American actors are on the spot as it shows on how each of them trying to cope day-to-day in the American society. The only flaw is with its flashbacks to his father and brother memories, which interrupts at inopportune times and slowed down the pacing of the film.
Nonetheless, this film should get good remarks for addressing an important part in American culture and history—the Native Americans and their struggle to adapt to American lives during the late 20th century.