Not much happens in Daniel Peddle’s psilocybin dream-along river-life chillout Moss, but the movie doesn’t qualify as “slow cinema.” It’s more blunted, its attention caught in the drift of water, in the wind through leaves, in the passing of a day that the hero, Moss (Mitchell Slaggert), spends baked, canoeing down the Cape Fear river, and then tripping with a woman he meets on the banks. She’s Mary (Christine Marzano), a loaded name she shares with the boy’s dead mother; it’s his eighteenth birthday, and she gives him mushrooms. Climbing trees, swinging on a swing, idling on a beach, they kiss while Moss worries he might have been too tough on his old man in the argument that kicks off the film. Peddle cuts, sometimes, to Moss’s artist father (Billy Ray Suggs), who also feels bad about the dustup, and to his friend and drug connection (Dorian Cobb), who bikes leisurely around this stretch of coastal North Carolina, the shadows and sun worth relishing.
Peddle eschews psychedelia or camera trickery. Instead, he suggests the bliss and (apparent) profundity of his characters’ drug experiences through exactingly gorgeous nature photography and the sensitive attention to lives on the edges of society that he demonstrated in his 2016 documentary, Garden of the Peaceful Dragon. (Many of the performers are first-time actors; Juri Beythien served as director of photography.) But there’s an edge to the head-trip and the river journey, a sense not just of the characters’ freedom but also of their limited options and never-articulated desperation. And, of course, there’s an element of tragedy — a reminder that a temporary connection to the universe itself does not relieve one of one’s responsibilities. Also: a pet owl!
Written and directed by Daniel Peddle
Breaking Glass Pictures
Opens July 6, Cinema Village