Like its shy hero, "Four Sheets to the Wind" is so low-key it risks making little impression -- until you realize it (and he) has stealthily won viewer sympathy and affection.

Like its shy hero, “Four Sheets to the Wind” is so low-key it risks making little impression — until you realize it (and he) has stealthily won viewer sympathy and affection. Cody Lightning (“Smoke Signals”) plays an Oklahoma Native American making his first, tentative steps out of the family nest after a parent’s demise. Very modest, no-frills first feature for writer-helmer Sterlin Harjo might not lure theatrical buyers, but should make headway toward ancillary exposure via fest-circuit popularity.

Cufe Smallhill (Lightning) is a young Seminole-Cree doing nothing in particular, like most underemployed folks in his rural community, while living with his mother (Jerri Arredondo). At the pic’s start, he discovers diabetes-plagued dad in his easy chair, a pill-overdose suicide. Taciturn as the old man was, Cufe is still torn up by the loss. Needing a change, he visits his older sister (Tamara Podemski, who copped a Sundance jury prize for thesping) in Tulsa. She’s partying too hard and scraping by, but neighbor Francie (Laura Bailey) provides Cufe a welcome romantic interest and a door to the wider world. There’s no flamboyance of incident here, but the gently insightful script, perfs and direction (plus Jeff Johnson’s attractive score) prove ingratiating.

Four Sheets To The Wind

Production

An Indion Entertainment Group production in association with Kish Prods. and Dirt Road Prods. Produced by Chad Burris, Ted Kroeber. Executive producer, Cheyenne Fletcher. Directed, written by Sterlin Harjo.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Frederick Schroeder; editor, David Michael Maurer; music, Jeff Johnson; production designer, Carla Marie Rugg. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 22, 2007. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Cody Lightning, Jeri Arredondo, Tamara Podemski, Laura Bailey, John Proudstar, Richard Ray Whitman, Mike Randleman, Christian Kane.

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