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North Star

average rating is 4 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

Oct 1, 2022

Film Reviews
North Star
Directed by:
P. J. Palmer
Written by:
P. J. Palmer
Colman Domingo, Malcolm Gets, Audrey Wasilewski

America is a divided country, split down many, many different lines and seemingly losing its sense of identity as half of its population are being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. There was a time not so long ago when it would be unthinkable that the Malboro Man, the rugged, manly figure of wild, American romance, could be black – let alone gay. Yet here, in North Star from writer/director P. J. Palmer, our all American hero is just that.


Colman Domingo is Jimmy, a cowboy who runs a ranch with his husband Craig, played by Malcolm Gets, and who today is selling their last horse, North Star. Jimmy needs money to pay for Craig's medication and care, as he is suffering from a seriously debilitating condition that has left him an invalid, unable to move or speak on his own. As luck would have it, Craig's sister Erin (Wasilewski) has turned up today unannounced, back early from a sojourn to Canada to rustle up some cheap medicine and a few other things. She wants to spend as much time as she can with her brother in his final days and even though she's not taking charge of the difficult stuff, like feeding, changing and bathing, she's happy to take charge of everything else and make a song and dance about it as she does so.


It doesn't take long for Erin's thinly veiled prejudices and moral superiority to come to the fore, underpinned as they are by her religious faith, and she badgers Jimmy to let her take Craig home with her, where he'll be with his real family and presumably under the auspices of God. Erin fully embodies the phrase, 'Love the sinner. Hate the sin,' as her pointed remarks and open disdain for her brother's relationship and lifestyle run Jimmy out of the house to do some chores and get away from the situation. Soon the TV is switched to the local televangelist channel, echoing Erin's sentiment, preaching love whilst simultaneously spouting hate, and poor Craig is forced to suffer in silence.


North Star then, speaks to a nation divided, unable to reconcile it's violent, oppressive past with where it needs to go in the future, where it is inclusive, understanding and non-judgemental. P. J. Palmer pitches his characters and his scenario perfectly, to showcase as many of the country's major dividing lines as he can without being blatant or overly dramatic about it.


Jimmy and Craig's inter-racial, same-sex relationship highlights the fault lines of race and sexuality while Erin opens up the weeping sores of religion and belief. Through the TV other contentious issues around lifestyle, education and rights are discussed and when a news report touches on the latest school shooting we are reminded that all of these dividing lines arc together under one umbrella – politics – the most divisive issue in America today.


Palmer tackles all of this with startling subtlety and it is to his immense credit that North Star remains a soft and gentle film throughout. Jimmy and Craig's relationship is genuinely touching and affecting with tough, invasive realities being balanced with tender, loving moments while the beauty and scope of the wilderness is contrasted with the small, closed-mindedness of what goes on indoors through Ernesto Lomeli's stunning cinematography.


The actors fully embody their characters with the three main leads offering outstanding performances which really enrich the feeling the viewer has of the scenario. Colman Domingo is considered and reserved as Jimmy while also managing to display an immense amount of strength and stoicism. Audrey Wasilewski shocks and riles as Erin without ever becoming a one-dimensional monster and Malcolm Gets stuns as Craig, managing to say so much with a single look as he expresses and receives love in two completely opposing ways.


There's a lot going on in North Star and not all of it is easy to unpick, meaning that the short film has real layering and depth within its thirty minute runtime. While on the surface it may look like something we've seen before, just scratching a little deeper offers up a wealth of themes and issues that can't help but have some effect on or relevance to the viewer. North Star is a beautiful prayer for a broken America and if just one ounce of its love and gentleness transfers through to the audience then the world will be a better place for it.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film, LGBTQ+
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