by Matthew Rowe
"Low and Clear"
Tyler Hughen, Kahlil Hudson, Alex Jablonski
The patience in "Low and Clear" will leave any viewer pleasantly surprised. There is no profound action in the film, but in the small moments we see how greatly the relationship between the two men highlighted has split, how the struggle between passion and responsibility can separate the best of friends.
That passion is fly-fishing, a sport that lends itself to beautiful photography and quiet, reflective moments. J.T. Van Zandt and Alex "Xenie" Hall are both avid fly fishers, but have fallen out of touch. The thoughtful J.T. has moved away from Xenie, finding a job, a fiancée and a home. The brash and youthful Xenie has stayed in Colorado, working a simple job that affords him time for his passion.
The two friends meet for a fishing trip in British Columbia, where the rift between the men is apparent. J.T. grows frustrated when he isn't able to land any fish, when the boastful Xenie takes a photo with every fish he catches, when he admits that his love for fly-fishing has had become a lower priority among the responsibilities he now has. Xenie is unable to console his friend, as he can't relate.
For J.T., fishing is an outpouring of his life, the culmination of all the good things. It is a reflection of the life he leads. For Xenie, fishing is his life. There is nothing else. The film's deliberate pace allows the viewer to empathize with both men and there is no easy judgment.
The film is beautifully shot, and boasts a great soundtrack from Bill Callahan, J.T., and J.T.'s father, the late, great Townes Van Zandt. The experience of "Low and Clear" is immersive and thoughtful, and was the best surprise of this year's festival.