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Movie Review: Natural Selection

April 3, 2012

When Natural Selection made the festival rounds last year, the film quickly became a darling of sorts, picking up various awards and accolades from discerning audiences and critics alike. Considering the fact that the film was made on a shoestring budget by a first-time director (Robbie Pickering), that’s no small feat. Now that the film is being rolled out in limited release, general audiences can discover what sets this little diamond in the rough apart from typical road-trip fare.

Rachael Harris is terrific as Linda, a sexually and socially repressed woman who has living a joyless life with her Christian Fundamentalist husband Abe (John Diehl). He’s so devout, that the two of them haven’t had sex for over 20-years-she’s been rendered infertile, so clearly God doesn’t mean for them to fornicate. The saintly and submissive Linda is still dutiful, despite Abe’s twisted logic. When Abe suffers a stroke, she rushes to his side. However, her entire life is subverted when she finds out that Abe was at a sperm bank watching porn when the stroke occurred. Even worse, she finds out that he has been doing so for the entire length of their marriage. Yep, Abe has generously been donating his seed to total strangers while Linda has white knuckled her way through years of sexual frustration.

Since Linda believes that Abe will die soon, she takes it upon herself to find out if he has fathered any children. When she discovers that he has a biological son named Raymond, she vows to bring him to Abe’s bedside. Thus Linda begins her journey to find Raymond in Florida. Imagine her surprise when Raymond (Matt O’Leary) is revealed to be a tattooed bad-boy with a criminal past and an illegal drug habit.

Linda’s complete naivety about the big, bad world outside her sheltered Texas suburb makes for an amusing excursion as she travels to Florida with Raymond in tow. He marvels at her pure kindness and trusting nature, and appears to grow a conscience, a confusing concept to his drug-addled brain.  The unlikely pair scrap their way through a series of mishaps and forge a unique relationship.

The plot may not sound like much, but rich characters and superb acting by Harris and O’Leary fuel the film. There are also a few unexpected twists and turns. Harris is generally cast as an acerbic smartass, but here she adds heart and soul to a character that easily could have been caustic and unlikable. Instead, you find her sweetly endearing as she slowly emancipates herself from the shackles she willingly wore for so many years.  It’s exhilarating to watch her character arc, and this is really Harris’ show. She’s easily worthy of the Breakout Performance award she won at last year’s SXSW film festival.

Watch trailer below

Rating 3.5/5  Natural Selection is written and directed by Robbie Pickering. Starring Rachael Harris, Matt O’Leary, Jon Gries and John Diehl. Rated R



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