RaMell Ross’ Hale County This Morning, This Evening both warrants enthusiasm for its directorial creativity, yet frequently allows this same unconventionality to bog down the proceedings.
The Oscar-nominated documentary laudably eschews talking-head interviews, re-enactments and the form’s other clichés, instead adopting the viewpoint of a casual observer, taking in the lives of impoverished African-Americans in the titular Alabama region.
In his commitment to chronicling average citizens barely getting by in rural America, Ross (perhaps unintentionally) echoes Margaret Byrne’s Raising Bertie (2017) and depicts numerous gut-wrenching overlaps with the residents of that film’s coastal North Carolina county and his neighbors just outside Tuscaloosa and Selma.
A patience-testing, multiminute scene of a child running from one side of a room to another, however, dilutes the work’s cumulative impact, and similar meandering stretches make viewers yearn for slightly more structure amid the filmmaker’s free-flowing style.
Now playing at Grail Moviehouse.