Unabashedly sentimental and steeped in New Age concepts like chakras, auras, and vortexes, writer/director Tommy Stovall’s sophomore film Sedona is exactly the kind of quirky, independent comedy-drama that will have cynical scoffers sharpening their skeptical claws. Those willing to give the film a fair shake, however, will likely walk away smiling thanks to stunning cinematography that gives a genuine sense of place, two skillfully interwoven storylines, convincing performances by a talented cast, and a fantastic portrayal of two loving, supportive gay parents that makes their sexuality a complete non-issue.
A powerful advertising executive and a stressed-out lawyer each experience a profound personal transformation over the course of one life-altering day in mystical Sedona, AZ. Successful ad woman Tammy (Frances Fisher) is driving from Portland to Phoenix to meet a big potential client when she's run off the road by a small airplane making an emergency landing. At first infuriated by the eccentric locals, she gradually begins to suspect that she may have ended up in Sedona for a reason as she waits for an area mechanic to repair her car and faces her difficult past for the very first time. Meanwhile, amidst the towering red boulders, workaholic lawyer Scott (Seth Peterson), his partner Eddie (Matt Williamson), and their two sons embark on a hiking trip that turns unexpectedly tense when seven-year-old Denny disappears in the sun-scorched landscape. As Scott searches frantically for his missing son, he realizes that his priorities have somehow gotten all mixed up and he begins to put his life into some much-needed perspective. With nightfall approaching, both Tammy and Scott find their skepticism about Sedona fading with the setting sun.
Opening with a series of breathtaking shots of majestic, red mountains, Sedona quickly gets intimate by acquainting us with the protagonists, and revealing their suffocating neuroses through a skillful mix of action and dialogue. Likewise, leads Fisher and Peterson do a commendable job of painting their characters with enough subtle nuances that their flaws come off more as character quirks than personality defects, especially in the case of Tammy, whose bitter regret is revealed in a series of carefully timed flashbacks. As her story slowly but steadily begins to intertwine with that of Scott’s, Stovall manages to cut between them in a way that really draws us in. Even in the second half of the film, when the balance seems to shift slightly in favor of Tammy’s journey, the suspense of not knowing what’s happening with Denny casts an intriguing air of tension over the entire endeavor. Meanwhile, Christopher Atkins, Lin Shaye, and Beth Grant each turn in memorable supporting performances, and youngsters Trevor Sterling Stovall and Rand Schwenke bicker like real siblings.
A few of the plot points come off as a bit too convenient or less than convincing (it’s hard to believe that a rescue volunteer wouldn’t immediately rally the troops to search for a missing child in the desert rather than risk waiting until night falls, for one), but for the most part the story flows so well and comes together in such a way that it makes it easy to overlook those shortcomings. So even if you’ve never had your chakra cleansed and a lotus is nothing more to you than a pretty flower, this mystical-flavored indie sends out enough good vibes to put a smile on your face, and -- if it hits even deeper -- perhaps even prompt you to search for a bit more meaning in your own life in the process. leave a comment --Jason Buchanan