Live Cargo


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Dree Hemingway as Nadine in Live Cargo
"Hemingway and Stanfield are both good in the central roles, with Howze charismatic as the antagonist on the fringes of the island community, but the film never really takes off the way it should." | Photo: Daniella Nowitz

Logan Sandler's Live Cargo relies on playing with familiarity and unfamiliarity. Set in the Bahamas, a place a lot more people think they know than are actually part of, it draws on the director's own cultural identity to create a strong sense of place, yet this is a place where issues familiar to viewers elsewhere manifest in distinctly different ways, and Sandler uses this to invite us to discover different truths.

Nadine (Dree Hemingway) and Lewis (Keith Stanfield) have retreated to the islands after losing a child. For him it's an exotic getaway, a place to unwind and try to find some kind of peace. For her it's a homecoming - she grew up there, learned to dive among the reefs and hunt sharks with a spear gun. Yet he is black and she is white, confounding cinematic convention. Unable to engage with island life, unfamiliar with a landscape where race barely matters, he hovers at a distance, watching. She drowns her sorrows in the local rum and hurls herself into everything, trying to bury her pain in fierce physicality - trying, perhaps, to dismiss that central chapter as unreal. A relationship already strained by suffering becomes increasingly fragile, yet both cling to the love they share as the whirlpool of island life threatens to sweep them away.

Then there's Myron (Sam Dillon), a shy white teenager struggling, like many in this supposed paradise, to eke out a living. Nadine is drawn to his vulnerability - perhaps to his childishness - asking her old friend and mentor Roy (Robert Wisdom) to help him out. Myron takes this the way many an insecure youth takes the sudden attention of an attractive older woman, and it is this that draws him into the orbit of local smuggler Doughboy (Leonard Earl Howze), who convinces him that money is the best way to please women and draws him into an enterprise that will have tragic consequences.

Shot in black and white, Live Cargo resembles mid-Twentieth Century tourist ads and films which sold themselves largely on the exotic image of the Caribbean - yet, distanced from today's holiday imagery, it gets far closer to the substance of the place. Sandler's focus is on immersive imagery rather than plot. The editing serves this well, as does a minimalist approach to dialogue which stubbornly avoids exposition. Unfortunately, this is carried too far, making the film hard to follow in paces despite the fact that nor much actually happens for most of its running time. Its lack of solidity gives it an unfinished quality, suggesting that characters and storylines were not fully developed before shooting began. There's a point at which encouraging viewes to think for themselves begins to seem less like intellectual engagement ad ore like laziness or a simple shortage of ideas.

Hemingway and Stanfield are both good in the central roles, with Howze charismatic as the antagonist on the fringes of the island community, but the film never really takes off the way it should. It's a compelling sketch stretched too thin, with not enough additional substance to fill out a feature.

Reviewed on: 29 Mar 2017
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Live Cargo packshot
A couple try to recover from a tragic loss on the island where one of them grew up.

Director: Logan Sandler

Writer: Thymaya Payne, Logan Sandler

Starring: Keith Stanfield, Dree Hemingway, Robert Wisdom, Leonard Earl Howze, Sam Dillon, Ayumi Iizuka, Frantz Lecoeur

Year: 2016

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: US


Tribeca 2016

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