Film Review: ‘Green / is / Gold’

First-time director Ryon Baxter plays a young pot dealer roped into taking care of his 13-year-old brother after their father goes to prison.

Jimmy Baxter, Ryon Baxter, David Fine, Shelley Mitchell, Liz Clare.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5143704/

“If you’re going to do wrong, make sure you do it right.” This is what counts for brotherly wisdom in “Green / is / Gold,” a coming-of-age story about a 13-year-old who’s introduced to the family weed business, but it’s one of the film’s many small virtues that it takes such a cavalier line seriously. Set in the hills of Northern California, where marijuana growers can thrive in isolation, Ryon Baxter’s winning debut feature follows two brothers living on the fringes — of society, of the law, and of a future that’s by no means certain for either of them. That Baxter and his own younger sibling, Jimmy, play the lead roles adds to the authentic, lived-in quality that sets the film apart. Winner of the Audience Award at the L.A. Film Festival, the film should harvest interest from micro-indie distributors and serve as a calling card for a promising new director.

Though his premise seems geared toward a scolding moral drama, Baxter — a quintuple threat as writer, director, producer, editor and star — weighs the narrow options allotted to his underclass characters and considers them in a generous light. By any reasonable measure, Cameron (Ryon Baxter) isn’t fit to take care of his 13-year-old brother Mason (Jimmy Baxter): His home is a dilapidated trash-heap, his business risks sending him to jail alongside their father, and his temperament is boyish and immature. When a concerned teacher (Shelly Mitchell) summons Cameron over the Ds and Fs on Mason’s report card, the older brother winds up getting most of the scolding. A dropout himself, Cameron thinks education is a corporate-fueled disinformation campaign and Mason is better off without it anyway.

Though Cameron feints at keeping his brother away from his business and his stash, it isn’t long before Mason is learning the finer points of fertilization and ventilation and smoking a little on the sly. A night with Cameron’s libertine girlfriend (Liz Clare) serves as its own crash course in sex ed, but the film keeps coming back to the business, which will live or die on a deal to sell Cameron’s entire “sour diesel” crop for $150,000. Cameron is careful not to make the same mistakes that got his former partner pinched in Texas, but there’s only so much risk that can be avoided when dealing with shady characters.

Riding shotgun to the big city, Mason is both captive and business partner, tethered to a destiny he’s too young to choose for himself. But Baxter isn’t judgmental about the life Cameron is introducing to his younger brother, in part because the only other option is destitution, which would land Mason back in the system. “Green / is / Gold” is scaled-down nearly to a fault, with ambitions no grander than tracking the ups and downs of a relationship that teeters on the precipice. Yet Baxter packs the film with sound insights on masculinity and young adulthood, as well as the hand-to-mouth realities of black-market farming.

“Green / is / Gold” leads to an agonizingly tense sequence where the brothers meet their skittish buyers, but even then, Baxter subtly defies expectations of where drug films usually go. His commitment to understanding these siblings and their tenuous entrepreneurial venture supersedes the type of violent payoffs that usually go along with films about the business. Mason isn’t in the best situation an orphaned 13-year-old could be. He’s not in the worst situation, either. “Green / is / Gold” carefully illuminates the space in between.

Film Review: 'Green / is / Gold'

Reviewed online, Chicago, Jun. 20, 2016. (At Los Angeles Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 81 MIN.

Production: A Transition Pictures presentation, in association with Donnybrook4. Produced by Ryon Baxter. Executive producer, Anthony Burns. Co-producer, Michael James.

Crew: Directed, written by Ryon Baxter. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Justin Potter, Mike Revolvalcke; editor, Baxter; music, Luca Young; art director, Jake Langhoff; sound, Brodie Giles; re-recording mixer, James LeBrecht; sound effects editors, Bijan Sharifi, LeBrecht; visual effects artist, Aaron Peak.

With: Jimmy Baxter, Ryon Baxter, David Fine, Shelley Mitchell, Liz Clare.

More Film

  • Aisling Franciosi

    European Film Promotion Unveils 2019 Shooting Stars

    Aisling Franciosi (“The Nightingale”), Ardalan Esmaili (“The Charmer”) and Elliott Crosset Hove (“Winter Brothers”) are among the 10 actors and actresses who have been named as the European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars. Previous Shooting Stars include Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Pilou Asbæk and Baltasar Kormákur. The new crop of up-and-coming talent for the 22nd edition of [...]

  • Jodie Foster'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th

    Film News Roundup: Jodie Foster to Direct, Star in Remake of Icelandic Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Jodie Foster is remaking Iceland’s “Woman at War,” the Art Directors Guild honors production designers Anthony Masters and Ben Carre, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” gets cast and Melissa Takal directs “New Year New You” for Hulu. PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bold Films, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories banner have acquired the rights to remake the Danish thriller “The Guilty,” with Gyllenhaal attached to star. The pic won the world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also named one of the top five foreign language films of 2018 by [...]

  • Toxic Avenger

    'Toxic Avenger' Movie in the Works at Legendary

    Legendary Entertainment is developing “The Toxic Avenger” as a movie after acquiring the feature film rights. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers. Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter will oversee for Legendary. More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown Show Film Review: 'Jirga' Kaufman and [...]

  • Constance Wu

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Star Constance Wu in Negotiations for Romantic Comedy

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu is in talks to join Sony’s Screen Gems’ untitled romantic comedy, with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman producing. “GLOW” actress Kimmy Gatewood is making her feature directorial debut on the project. She will be directing from a Savion Einstein script about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies [...]

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal AoA

    Maggie Gyllenhaal on Why a Woman Director Doesn't Automatically Make a Story More Feminine

    Having a female director doesn’t automatically make a story more feminine, says “The Kindergarten Teacher” star Maggie Gyllenhaal, but when it comes to her film with director Sara Colangelo, she says the female narrative is fully encapsulated. “Just because something is written or directed by a woman doesn’t necessarily make it a feminine articulation,” she says [...]

  • Kevin Hart Hurricane Harvey

    Academy Looks Warily at Oscar Host Options as Board Meeting Looms

    Kevin Hart’s abrupt departure as Oscars host has left the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences scrambling to find someone to take the gig. As of now, the situation remains fluid as the group’s leadership explores options, including going host-less, individuals familiar with the situation told Variety. The Academy was blindsided by Hart’s announced departure Thursday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content