Hilary and I watched the film Wind River last week on Pay Per View. Hilary had already seen the film a few weeks earlier in the theatre. The fact she wanted to see again this powerful, grisly, movie written and directed by Taylor Sheridan spoke volumes to me.
SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t seen the film-and I strongly recommend that you do—stop reading and pick this up after you’ve watched it.
Here is a brief summary of the film.
Cory Lambert (played by Jeremy Renner) is a tracker for the U.S. Fish & Game Wildlife Service in a remote area near Lander, WY. His main job is to control wildlife encroachment into populated areas. He’s called on by the tribal chief from the local Wind River Indian reservation, to which he has family ties, to help solve the brutal death of the 18 year old daughter of one of his Native American friends, Martin (played by Gil Birmingham). We learn that Cory’s own 16 year old daughter, Emily, was raped and left to die in the wilderness a few years before. That case was never solved. Cory blames himself for Emily’s death because he and his wife, a tribal member (now divorced), were gone for a weekend get-a-way when she disappeared from an unchaperoned party at his house. The FBI sends only one agent from Las Vegas to investigate the murder of Martin’s daughter Natalie, so Cory agrees to help her and the chief find out who caused the death of the girl.
There are two scenes in particular from this film that struck me deeply—brought me to tears.
The first one is about a third of the way into the movie. Cory and the FBI agent have gone over to Martin’s house on the reservation to question him about Natalie’s murder. Martin is cold and clearly annoyed by the agent’s questions. Martin and Cory then go outside and you hear Martin break down in sobs and the two men embrace. Cory talks to Martin.
Cory: I’m really sorry. I’d like to tell you it gets easier…it doesn’t. If there’s any comfort…it’s getting used to the pain I suppose.
I went to a grief seminar in Casper. You know that? Don’t know why. I just wanted the bad to go away. Wanted answers to questions that couldn’t be answered.
The counselor came up to me after the seminar… sat down next to me. He said something that stuck with me. I don’t know if it’s what he said, or it’s how he said…He says ‘I got some good news, I got some bad news. The bad news is you’re never gonna be the same-you’ll never be whole. Not ever again. You lost your daughter. Nothing’s ever going to replace that. Now the good news is as soon as you accept that…and you let yourself suffer…you’ll allow yourself to visit her in your mind. You remember all the love she gave… all the joy she knew.’
The point is Martin, you can’t steer from the pain. If you do you’ll rob yourself. You’ll rob yourself of every memory of her. Every last one. From her first step, to her last smile. You kill ‘em all. Just take the pain, Martin. You hear me? You take it. It’s the only way to keep her with you.’
Martin: I’m just tired Cory…so tired fighting this life.
Cory: What you do now, is for your boy (Chip).
Martin: Drugs is his family now. He’s gone too. Lives right down the damn road, but it’s….he’s gone.
That scene, Cory’s words, remind me a lot of Billy Bob Thornton and what he said about the death of his brother, Jimmy. Here’s the link I shared last November.
The other scene is the film’s last. Martin is sitting outside, cross-legged, in back of his house in the snow. It is late afternoon, cold. His face is painted white and blue. Cory walks up to him. Cory, the reservation law enforcement and an FBI agent have tracked down and disposed of the men who raped and killed Martin’s daughter.
Cory: What’s with the paint?
Martin: This paint? It’s my death face.
Cory: Is that right? How would you know what that is?
Martin: I don’t. Just made it up. Guess no one left to teach here. That’s right as…then the phone rang…which is never good. But today it was. First time Chip’s (his son) called in over a year.
Cory: Where is he?
Martin: Police station. Just gonna go pick him up….. as soon as I wash this shit off my face. I heard about what happened [finding the men who killed his daughter]. Heard there’s one still missing.
Cory: No….no one’s missing.
Martin: How’d he go out?
Cory: With a whimper…. You gotta go easy on Chip.
Martin: I should go get him. Just need to sit here…you gonna sit for a minute?
You got time to sit with me?
Cory sits down next to Martin and says: Well, I ain’t going nowhere.
I’m so deeply grateful to so many of you who have sat with me and our family.
Let’s pay this forward and make more time to sit with one another.
I’ve always got time to sit with you and ‘I ain’t going nowhere.’