Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Growing Up at the "Lucky U Ranch" Trailer Court

Chubby eleven-year-old Junior (Trevor Robins) awkwardly lowers himself onto the tracks. The hollow whistle of a train dissolves into the heckling of cruel classmates - a fresh memory of being bullied at school. He puts his ear to the rail listening for the far off roar of a train. Trains hold a special wonder for Junior as he dreams of escaping to follow in the footsteps of his father. Startled awake by an old-timey locomotive in his dream, he picks up his discarded school books and wistfully tramps home through the harsh desert to the end of the trail: the Lucky U Ranch trailer court. 

Junior has plenty of time to daydream left alone in their trailer while his mother works long hours to support them. His longing for a father is always just under the surface. It comes out in fantasies where he plays a film noir private eye who rescues a little girl. The police detective raves, “Once again you saved the day. Your father would be proud.” His mystified mother (Harris Kendall) is doing the best she can. She can see how much he needs a father. She allows him his fantasies to protect him from the painful truth. But his expansive fantasy life is only making matters worse. When he misses the ball while daydreaming out in left field, he is ridiculed by his classmates.

Then, one day, a shiny Air-stream backs in next to their dilapidated trailer. A vision in pigtails chases her dog into his yard. Melissa (Donovan Droege) asks him to teach her to play jacks, and in exchange she gives him much needed baseball lessons. I love the way this confident pre-teen girl doesn’t shy away from sharing her expertise while coaching. She enjoys his sense of humor and really gets him. There are people who appear in your life just when you need them to teach you a pivotal lesson, and Melissa is one of those angels. Despite dealing with alcoholic parents that fight all the time, she saves Junior. Empowered by their friendship, Junior gains the confidence and courage he needs to face reality and to handle a life altering event.  

The running theme is one that many of us can relate to – longing for the love and approval of an absentee parent. It brought back my own fantasies of running away to find my birth father or of my father just showing up and being so proud of me that he was sorry he ever left. It takes real courage to accept them for who they are, faults and all.

This touching coming of age story draws from writer/producer Ginia Desmond’s years at the Lucky U Ranch trailer court. Like the character of Melissa, she was stuck in a trailer with alcoholic parents who fought. And baseball was one of the joys of her young life.

Guided by director Steve Anderson, the bond between the two child actors is so natural. Brian Shanley’s beautiful cinematography creates a melancholy atmosphere using our stunning desert to good effect.  Production designer Adam Sydney enhances Tucson’s small town feel with a keen attention to detail that gives "Lucky U Ranch" an authentic, nostalgic fifties vibe.

This Tucson-based indie does Arizona proud.

Movie blessings! 
Jana Segal-Stormont


Ginia Desmond said...

Jana, this is beautiful. Thank you, Ginia...

Jana Stormont said...

My pleasure. It's a lovely movie. :)

Stacie Robins said...

Gush! And thank you for your kind words. The theme of this beautiful movie rings true to present day. I Thank God always for allowing my family to be a part of such a beautiful story come to life on the big screen.

Jana Stormont said...

You're welcome! You did a fine job, Stacie!

Tara Pitts said...

Thank you for such an insightful review Jana! I love how you point out the themes of adolescent struggles, and the subtle energy of this film.