Review: ‘Burnt Sienna’

A no-budget DV feature from the snowdrifts of deepest Montana, "Burnt Sienna" starts out as a bad-taste black comedy before heading into more routine bush-league "Bonnie and Clyde," road movie romantics. Writer-helmer Tolan Harber's maiden feature is too rough and uneventful to serve as anything but a learning experience.

A no-budget DV feature from the snowdrifts of deepest Montana, “Burnt Sienna” starts out as a bad-taste black comedy before heading into more routine bush-league “Bonnie and Clyde,” road movie romantics. There are glimmers of offbeat humor and talent here, but writer-helmer Tolan Harber’s maiden feature is too rough and uneventful to serve as anything but a learning experience. Travel beyond regional fests looks unlikely.

When 18-ish Sienna (Samantha Pollington) wakes up on the kitchen floor, she heads straight to the shed, grabs an axe, and delivers a grisly end to the fat evil stepfather who’d hit her for the first (and last) time. High-tailing it outta there, she soon discovers a stowaway in her truck — hapless Thurston (Robert Keli), who’s just robbed a convenience store. She blithely allows him to stay as driving companion, and before you can say Uncle they’re swapping entire life stories. Occasional yoks emerge, though pic suffers from over-length, under-plotting, primitive camerawork, and a stock “tragic” wrap. Keli has a certain shaggy appeal, while Pollington’s adolescent snippiness wearies; soundtrack by obscure indie bands boasts some notably bad acoustic songs.

Burnt Sienna

Production

An Amethyst production. Produced by Tolan Harber. Co-producers, Robert Keli, Samantha Pollington. Directed, written by Tolan Harber.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Frank McGowan; editors, Harber, Sean Cloninger. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 5, 2003. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Robert Keli, Samantha Pollington, Allen "Woody" Woodwick, Sean Cloninger, Desiree Dennis, Ryan Maroney, Kelly Ann Hanson.
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