In recent anthology films, such as The French Dispatch and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the viewer is often provided with a carousel of curios. Portmanteaux can supply a narrative kick like no other when the individual episodes don’t simply stand alone but converge into a single outcome.
There’s nothing quite as accomplished as Pulp Fiction’s intersecting trajectories and penchant for petty criminal sleaze as Vincent Grashaw’s What Josiah Saw. The character, however, has a stubborn, almost literary feel that builds a baleful momentum by the end.
In Terminator 2, Robert Patrick plays Josiah, the shock-haired patriarch of a Graham farm eyed by fracking companies. With his “morning tea” (read: hooch) in hand, he has only his youngest son Thomas (Scott Haze) to work with – though they are haunted by the suicide of Miriam’s mother.
A third son, Eli (Nick Stahl, another Terminator alumnus), is subsisting elsewhere on the white-trash fringes and is forced into a sketchy heist to grab a cache of gold from the Roma. Amidst Josiah and Thomas’s bizarre dinner-table conversations and Eli’s dirty encounters with lowlifes and the law, Grashaw picks through the family’s festering wounds.
“There’s a hole inside me – I can’t fill it,” proclaims Mary (Kelli Garner), Josiah’s mordant bourgeois pretender trying for a child. In the wake of the oil-company offer, lurking psychological horror erupts into full-blown physical horror.
As the film reaches its climax, a crawling string section gives a glimpse into the sordid southern-gothic closet, but its fragmented structure reveals how moral corruption seeps outwards. I wish the portrayal of the child-snatching Roma, which borders on racism, had been taken into account.
In light of the astute characterizations and performances elsewhere, that latter aspect is a shame. All of the main characters are strong, but Stahl stands out as the sunken-faced, swivel-eyed flotsam who manages one last noble act before being swallowed whole by destiny.
Robert Poirrer is a contributing author who covers Hollywood latest movie releases and web series for the MovieThop website. He has a decade of experience in writing movies based articles for numerous renowned media outlets. He is excellent at creating unique content based on emerging trends in a variety of categories especially entertainment, movies and lifestyle. When not writing articles you could find Robert enjoying mountain biking trips with his friends. He graduated in English Literature from North Carolina State University.