Jeremy Saulnier’s (Blue Ruin) third film is a cryptic and mesmerizing journey into the frozen north where a child has disappeared, perhaps taken by wolves. The child’s mother, Medora (Riley Keough), a name that’s a near-match for Medea, summons a retired naturalist, Russell (Jeffrey Wright) to hunt down the wolves who have taken her son, but events quickly indicate that stranger things are afoot. Without attempting to delineate an often inscrutable story, I can say that explosive plot events and Wright’s soft-spoken performance carry the film.
Unlike other Far North thrillers such as Wind River (Sheridan 2017) Hold the Dark‘s sanguinary journey contains gothic, even tragic elements rather than celebrating vengeance as a kind of rude justice. Where Wind Rivers opts for a hackneyed fantasy of violence which only underscores the burgeoning psychopathy of American culture in the wake of 20 years of undeclared war, Hold the Dark counterpoints dark, irrational drives with longing and something like redemption.