The Ballad Of Lefty Brown is the second film from studio A24 I have seen during the 37th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival presented by Halekulani. What is most surprising to me is that this was a complete mystery to me until this film’s opening credits were rolling. Normally, I like to think that I am “in the loop” about A24’s current and future offerings, and the fact that I did not know The Ballad Of Lefty Brown was a film of their’s had me worried. What if they were intentionally not advertising this film much under their banner because it was not representative of their quality body of work? Luckily, these thoughts were quickly shut down, as this soon became another knockout hit for the most promising studio in independent filmmaking.
This is a western film in all of the best ways. Firstly, the cinematography is breathtaking, as this film touts its Kodak Film sponsorship and collaboration in the opening credits. Because of this (among other things), we as the audience feel the emptiness of the Montanan frontier, the dirt between the characters’ fingernails, the punches given in saloons late at night, and especially the gunfire. You would be astounded by just how much good sound design when it comes to the sound effects of firearms will truly elevate a film’s tension and realism. Guns in the late nineteenth century were not perfect machines. They were large, imposing, powerful, and most importantly, deadly instruments of death. The sound of the gunshots in this film truly shook me, and that is something that cannot be said about most films. A minute detail, yes, but one that gives the film the gritty edge it needs to succeed as both a thriller and a coming-of-age film about an elderly man. Speaking of which, Bill Pullman is excellent as the titular character of Lefty Brown, from which the film pulls its title.
This is Bill Pullman’s film, through and through. He is in almost every scene, and he exudes a feeling of deep sadness, regret, and ever-pervasive emotion of all types. His character is what makes this film truly great, but the work of the writer and director Jared Moshé cannot be overlooked, as his work here is yet another showcase of A24 bringing promising young filmmakers into the spotlight of festival glory. Combined with Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird, as well as the many other critically-acclaimed films A24 has put out recently, this may be shaping up to be the young studio’s best year ever, and something tells me they will be reaping the benefits come Awards season in a few months.