One of the class acts in the second Dances With Films fest of ultra-low-budget indies, Lyn Clinton’s “The Height of the Sky” showcases a young helmer with a sophisticated sense of composition and cutting. Pic is nonetheless hampered by a dusty story riddled with curious character motivations. A sure bet for extensive fest exposure, Depression-era Arkansas saga’s leisurely pace will slow down commercial prospects but could draw interest from specialty cablers.
With literary touches reminiscent of Faulkner and filmic echoes of Terrence Malick, Clinton (distant relative of the U.S. president) has adapted a tragic episode from her family’s past, and immediately establishes a solemn, subtle tone, pitting hardscrabble existence of sharecropper Jones clan vs. indolent land owners the Caldwells.
Pic’s spiritual center is Leora Jones (a fine, low-key Jennifer Weedon), itching to teach and seeking to uncover deep, dark family secrets as TB rips her kin apart. Clinton and thesps reveal most in silence, and are least effective when obvious dialogue nearly consumes pic. Tale may be true but rings false as a screen story, though fine tech credits dress this up mighty pretty.