2018 Kamloops Film Festival: Tomato Red

Each year, The Omega reviews the films presented at the Kamloops Film Festival. The festival runs through March 10.

Filmed in the Thompson Nicola Regional District, we follow empathetic, small-town criminal Sammy as he is taken in by a family cut from the same impoverished cloth. From director Juanita Wilson and adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel, the film rests in the world of downtrodden and rejected, of those outcasted to the fringes and garbage of towns. This is the unfortunate life of Jemalee and her brother and mother, who graciously accept Sammy into their home despite his past actions.

Wilson and her cinematographer Piers McGrail cast the film in a gleamingly dusk that permeates much of the movie when not offset by the harshness of the desert sun that effectively shuns the family from the rest of the world all the while engaging the audience with a sympathetic view of those only a few wrong steps removed from the seeming extravagance of everyday life. Jemalee ponders her wasted potential, hoping for a brighter future while her mother has given up on any glamour, reserving herself as a tool to be used by men willing to pay. The films focus of Sammy and his earnest heart grounds the film in the bad decisions he continues to make and offers a unique, winding tale to view that considers “what leads a person to commit a crime?”

While sometimes plodding and overly similar in tone to Woodrell’s other adaptation, the film nevertheless crafts an ethereal and cautionary tale of affection that strips any hope from its dreary yet inevitable conclusion.