Golden Globe nominee Kirsten Dunst stars as Theresa, a haunted young woman spiraling in the wake of profound loss, torn between her fractured emotional state and the reality-altering effects of a potent cannabinoid drug in Woodshock. Woodshock was an official selection for the Venice Film Festival this year and was directed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy, both designers of Rodarte. Kirsten Dunst has starred in a few indie films I enjoy like Melancholia, so I was excited to check out this new film released through A24 and Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Unfortunately, after viewing Woodshock, the only word to describe my feelings is boredom.
I admired the story it told and how it left you to your own thoughts plenty of times throughout the movie, but I soon realized this movie was headed nowhere quickly. As the 100-minute runtime passed, I kept waiting for something grand or climatic to happen but Woodshock continuously keeps the same tone and pace that never really amounts to much. The story on paper is a heart-wrenching one involving a young girl and the loss of her mother, but I never emotionally connected to Dunst’s character or really any character in the film. Woodshock doesn’t allow for audience members to become invested in the lives of the characters on-screen and not once did I feel any sadness or deep connection to Dunst’s character. It’s a film that is ultimately relatable because it deals with death, love, loss, grief, and isolation but none of those themes came forward to make it an impactful story.
Kirsten Dunst tries her best as a grieving young woman but there isn’t much for her to work with. Dunst does a fine job appearing depressed for the whole film (which could be viewed as a fantastically accurate portrayal), but the execution of the movie just made everything seem so depressing and Dunst’s performance didn’t feel like a stand out.
The film takes a turn towards the middle part of the story when Theresa turns to smoking hallucinogen-laced marijuana to cope with the loss of her mother. The story turns trippy which I found to be a poor approach as it focused more on creating a dreamlike state instead of building the narrative.
The film looked beautiful for this Blu-ray release with plenty of gorgeous scenery involving mountainsides, forests, and sequoia tress that the Blu-ray captured very well. I was impressed with the clear shots and bright colors which are easily my favorite part of the film. The film goes from a story centered on grief that leads into a hazy drug trip and both looks are shown very well.
The dialog in Woodshock is quiet as most of the characters speak in a low tone, likely in an attempt to emphasize their depression. Despite the audio being rather low, it’s rendered fine and is clear to hear, if you turn the volume up a few notches.
Special features for the Blu-ray release of Woodshock include the making of Woodshock which is titled, “A Mental Landscape”. The special feature offers insight on why the directors choose to film part of their movie at the Red Wood Forest in California. Woodshock deals with the theme of isolation and grief and the Mulleavy sisters discussed the importance of those themes and how they related to their own life. Despite my negatives with the film, it was interesting to see why the sisters choose to develop the movie and how each little detail was so important to them.
The film failed to establish an emotional connection with its main character which resulted in me feeling unmoved and uninterested. Kate and Laura Mulleavy, first time directors, relied too heavily on artsy moments that honestly offered nothing to the plot of the movie. I admired their motivation to film such a story, but Woodshock ultimately fell flat for me.
Lionsgate generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray of the film for reviewing purposes.