‘Sit with Me’: Currents of Grief in “Wind River”

“This isn’t the land of waiting for backup. This is the land of you’re on your own.”

Harsh as those words are, the reality they depict is even harsher. Wind River tells the gritty story of a murder case on an Indian Reservation where a young woman’s body is found in the snow by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife game hunter, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). Signs of rape and assault that are evident from the beginning are soon confirmed, and FBI Officer Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) and Lambert pair up to investigate.

The audience eventually learns that Lambert’s daughter also died in the cold a few years earlier. The undetermined, suspicious circumstances of her murder leave Lambert tormented and hungry to exact punishment. A few scenes in the film play out like near-fulfillments of revenge fantasies for Lambert, tantalizing him with the aroma of justice, offering a taste, then disappearing. Lambert pursues vengeance on behalf of the newly deceased young woman, Natalie, and her family, indulging the bloodlust that has been percolating beneath his calm exterior as he has mourned his own daughter. The retribution does not satisfy.

Wind River is bleak, even gruesome at moments. The desolation that echoes throughout the snow-covered reservation and the agony of the characters’ stories resound loudly enough for Vox writer Alissa Wilkinson to suggest that the film “risks becoming a caricature of pain.” While I do not overtly disagree with Wilkinson’s critique (I certainly found a few scenes in the film to teeter on, if not fall over, the edge of gratuitous brutality), my overall impression of the film is, perhaps, rooted in different soil.

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*Image Credit: IMDB

Author: Abby Perry

Abby has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, Upwrite Magazine, and The Influence Network. She is the communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization and co-facilitates two community efforts—one promoting bridge-building racial reconciliation conversations and one supporting area foster and adoptive families. Abby graduated from Texas A&M University and currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her family live in College Station, Texas.

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