As meandering as its two leading characters and flecked with enough stylistic touches to set it apart from more plainly conceived Native American-made pics, Blackhorse Lowe’s feature debut “5th World” erratically captures the elusive nature of love among young Navajo adults. Despite a hip, irreverent tone and a serious artistic purpose, pic is very likely to receive the same kind of indifferent audience reaction that’s been the fate of most dramas from indigenous filmmakers, though progressive fests and cablers should line up with offers.
Friends who seem to be inching toward amour, Navajo twentysomethings Andrei (Sheldon Silentwalker) and Aria (Liva’ndrea Knoki) join up for a trek back to the reservation on foot and by car. While moving through a landscape that is both their own and one that has been visually co-opted by Hollywood, the pair’s lengthy, casual dialogues play up the fact that (when they’re not thinking about sex) they’ve watched a ton of movies, from recent works like “Blue Velvet” to Westerns by John Ford (mentioned just as they’re passing through Monument Valley).
The couple straddles contemporary American sensibilities and clan-based traditions that Andrei especially finds suffocating, and it’s this clash that finally gives “5th World” a tension that leads to some dreadful personal discoveries. Although it certainly captures the relaxed and easy flow of everyday life among young people with little to do on the reservation, the slow pace will either strike viewers as hypnotic — and even strongly reminiscent of recent Chinese cinema about aimless youth — or deadly boring.
Lowe’s assured way with the camera and (as his own editor) knack for sudden cuts keeps “5th World” engaging, but much of the possible pleasure of listening to the well-matched Silentwalker and Knoki is lost with pic’s dreadfully poor sound mix. Corey Allison’s guitar-based score (with various inserted songs) brings an engrossing and dynamic pulse to this deliberately relaxed road trip.