Emmy award-winning Trevor Hawkins has at least a dozen short films to his credit. His visual perspective and adventure photography are the least of the accomplishments. The filmmaker has also been in the news due to a pretty unique way of financing his debut feature film. Hawkins financed “Lotawana” by taking a second mortgage on his house, and later turned the film’s financial gain as a part of a two-part NFT. Now, the success and failure of the film are in the hands of the audience, but as a subjective watcher, I was intermittently in awe of what Hawkins has done here.




 

Writing, directing, producing, doing the camera work, and the color for the movie, Hawkins presents us with a character study that initially follows Forrest (Todd Blubaugh) – a handsome young man who has denounced the generic, monotonous way of life in order to take a journey of self-discovery. Living on a sailboat on the beautiful Lotawana Lake in Missouri, the young man only occasionally puts his feet on land.

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If he isn’t sailing, fixing his boat, or just ravaging the waters, he is either driving his dirtbike to get supplies from the nearby town or is casually docked up as he just passes his days. Since he has chosen this life of bohemian existence, meeting new people becomes like a distant star-cross happenstance. However, magically, something of that sort actually happens. 

Forrest meets the young and rebellious Everly (Nicola Collie). Their free-spirited, adventurous nature brings both of them closer, and when the stars align, they fall in love. Things seem like they will be okay initially, with the couple moving around for better lake views and just scavenging through each day loving each other, but the realities of life soon hit them like a sledgehammer.




The two of them get pregnant and with only limited food and no job for any of them in hindsight,  things start getting pretty dreary. A last resort phone call home also doesn’t work for Everly, but the couple decides that they will keep the baby and somehow manage to live on the boat for the time being. That is until things start taking a turn for worse and the lovers find themselves questioning their life thereafter. 

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Now, coming to the film itself, Hawkins’ approach is pretty naturalistic. Since his characters are simplistic, as their character traits have nothing particularly provocative about them, he maintains a feather touch to capture them. Todd Blubaugh and Nicola Collie who play Forrest and Everly have believable chemistry between them. The couple (who also fell in love with each other on set and later married) and the issues that they are both avoiding are sequentially and organically developed which makes the film even more believable. 

That said, some of the things in the film don’t work at all. The slow-paced screenplay isn’t crafted in a way that helps the progression of the narrative. Instead, it kinda feels like it’s stuck in a loop that is not giving the viewer anything substantial to ponder on. More importantly, most of the screentime is us spending time with the couple who are not compelling enough to pull you into their different antiques or their personal tragedy. The lack of backstory also doesn’t make us vouch for the two of them to an extent that matters. 

Added to that, Hawkins, who also serves as a cinematographer for the film, captures some really beautiful shots of nature and the habitats around the lake. But, they don’t really gell well into the narrative and an over usage of these shots just doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme of things. The themes are also pretty observational and the director’s resolves of the conflicts feel pretty superficial. 




Lotawana, as a film about living life on the fringes, works extensively. Also, an old-school romance where love is just a feeling that keeps people together is also expressed well. I just wish there was more to its critic of the traditional way of living vs the character’s choice. That would have made the tragic climax more palpable.

½

Trailer

Lotawana (2022) Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Lotawana (2022) Cast – Todd Blubaugh, Nicola Collie, Anita Cordell

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

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