In this low-budget Native American drama set in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, simple man of the people Rolly Lamoreaux (Albert Two Bears) finds himself infatuated with prodigal daughter Constance Talking Crow (Wicahpi Bison), a deracinated professional woman who comes back to the “res” from New York in an awkward attempt to get to know her people. Contrasted with the comparatively glamorous Constance is Mary Flies Above (Allyssa Comer), a sweet but chubby widow and mother whom Rolly helps with chores. Constance, accustomed to big-city sophistication, finds the reservation backward. “People around here are so closed-minded,” she objects: “That’s probably why things around here never change.” Rolly, in choosing between Constance and Mary, is not only making his selection of a life partner, but weighing the merits of reservation life and traditional ways as opposed to the progress and opportunities of the world outside their community. Mallard’s Road has an easygoing pace appropriate to the country setting, and the presence of non-professional actors lends the story authenticity even if some of the line delivery is noticeably substandard. The film is also valuable for offering a glimpse of an America not often seen in movies. Real locations give Mallard’s Road a lived-in quality, with my favorite bit of texture being the sign taped to a grocery store’s cash register: “Due to the increase in temperature we will not be accepting money from personal body areas please use a purse.”

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Mallard’s Road is:


Body-positive, featuring a plus-size love interest and other characters not afraid to let it all hang out.

Arguably homophobic. A homosexual loitering in a post office – possibly one of the “weird, rude guys” Constance later remembers seeing there – is begging for money and explains, “I have to go across the street and get a wiener. I’m hungry and they got the biggest wieners.”

Socially conscious, politically cynical, and anti-capitalist. “Get rich?” Rolly scoffs with reference to a political scammer’s promises of green-energy development and economic prosperity. “Who’s gonna get rich? Only your candidate. Who’s paying him?” Delia (Lili Schuh), working alongside Constance for the politician’s campaign to earn a temporary income, explains: “Folks here are poor. Banks steal from us every way they can. They charge high interest rates when Indians go to buy a car or [apply for] a Christmas loan. You put money in the bank, but with the late fees and what they charge for overdrafts, it’s never enough to cover all the charges. […] It seems they can never invent enough ways to steal from us. So we have to cut them off […] for their own good. By using money orders, people don’t get their money stolen and it keeps the banks from stealing, it does everyone good. Just like it says in the Bible: Thou shalt not steal. We’re trying to give these wasichus [i.e., white people] a shot at Heaven.”

Indian-Nationalist, ethno-spiritual, and anti-white. More than one character casually denigrates whites, with Rolly’s father, for example, badmouthing an old tribal acquaintance as “a white man. An asshole. Just a brown white man.” Rolly, whose bookshelf includes a biography of Gandhi; Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West; Black Hills White Justice: The Sioux Nation versus the United States, 1775 to the Present by Edward Lazarus; and They Have No Rights: Dred Scott’s Struggle for Freedom by Walter Ehrlich, wonders, “Why would anyone want a court system like the white folks have – a system of justice where you can get all the justice you can afford?” On the reservation, Christianity intermingles with traditional tribal beliefs, which for Rolly still have value. Constance, contrarily, sees the reservation’s spiritual life as “nonsense”, and remains materialistic, which prevents her from identifying with her people. “Sometimes I feel like a fraud, like I don’t even know who I am,” she confesses. At the end of the film, she returns to her white boyfriend in New York, but the viewer is left with the impression that she will never be happy wherever she goes, psychically cleft and separated from her nation as she is.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.