There aren’t too many films like this one, so it definitely stands out, and I always want to appreciate coming of age films set in the 1980’s, so this is definitely a rare treat, but it would have worked much better if Sheff had made it into a feature.
Plot: A poetic, abstract tribute to classic children’s fantasy films, “Down Down the Deep River” was conceived as a visual song and written and directed by Will Sheff, lead singer and writer for Okkervil River. The film was shot in Sheff’s hometown in rural New Hampshire and stars local actors.
Review: A virtual silent short film (42 minutes long) set in 1987, Down Down the Deep River is about two boys living in a small New Hampshire town. The boys (played by newcomers Dustin Cournoyer and Griffin Gamache) read comic books, go to the movies, play with their action figures, and explore the woods. They go to school, and literally create a monster with their imaginations, but the monster isn’t malevolent; it observes them and acts like a sentry over their childhood. Over the course of a year, one of the boys drifts off and stops being the other boy’s friend, and eventually the rejected boy must come to terms with losing his friend, who literally disappears one day, never to be seen again.
An unusual experiment enmeshed within an ’80s aesthetic full of nostalgia and love for the era, Down Down the Deep River might have worked a little better for me as a feature and with dialogue, but with the way it is – always slightly off-center and lost in thought and reverie – it’s more of an abstract think piece than a narrative effort. It’s very nice to look at and listen to: Writer/director Will Sheff, from the band Okkervil River, also provides the songs and score for the film. There aren’t too many films like this one, so it definitely stands out, and I always want to appreciate coming of age films set in the 1980’s, so this is definitely a rare treat, but it would have worked much better if Sheff had made it into a feature.
Kino Lorber will be releasing Down Down the Deep River on DVD on September 5th. There’s an audio commentary by Scheff, as well as an informative behind the scenes feature, which I watched. There are also deleted scenes, music videos, and a really cool read along insert booklet done in the old ’70s and ’80s style.