"Northfork" is an exciting collaborative family effort between the Mark and Michael Polish. It has the fresh feeling of a debut; although this is not their first feature, the Polish brothers have created something that is an essentiality for any director. "Northfork" is commandeered by a voice so unique that the brothers can call it their own. This is a film whose stylism allows it to be called a "quintessential" Polish brothers film.
In 1955, the small town of Northfork, Montana is having a bit of a crisis. It is decided that a dam will be built that will flood the entire area. Things need to be rearranged; people relocated. Put to the task are three father and son teams consisting of Walter O Brien (James Woods) and his son Willis (Mark Polish), and men named Eddie (Peter Coyote), Marvin (Graham Bekel) and Matt (Josh Becker). They are each promised lakefront property if they can relocate a certain number of residences.
At this same time, all the children are gone from an orphanage led by priest Father Harlan (Nick Nolte), save one: an ailing child named Irwin (Duel Farnes). Irwin ventures out on his own and stumbles upon an isolated house. Inside is an odd bunch: a half-man, half-woman named Flower Hercules (Daryl Hannah), a man named Cup of Tea (Robin Sachs) who has all the elegance of an aristocratic drag queen, an art inspector named Happy (Anthony Edwards) and a sad, silent man named Cod (Ben Foster). All four of them seem somewhat otherworldly in their quest to find an angel, whom Irwin believes he well might be.
This is a relatively religious movie, but it sees this overt Christianity through a different eye than one might immediately perceive. The specific religion conveyed here was merely a matter of chance; there is no preaching here. Instead, the Polish brothers choose to see the mysticism that exists within it, and reveal events as through a child's eyes, with innocence instead of condescension. There are also moments of surprising pop-culture humor that also help one outside of the faith relax and be able to relate in a more intimate way.
While all the performances are wonderful and the dialogue can at times reach points of mythic wit and grace, there is an overall mood that dominates "Northfork". The film is bathed in a colorless haze, that is not so transparent as not to occupy space, but not opaque enough to be immediately noticeable. The Polish brothers can pat themselves on the back for creating an atmosphere that is succinctly hard to describe. But it will not work wonders for everyone. If it does not draw you in, your loss. But if you share my opinion, you'll realize that there something acutely penetrating about it.
If there is one crucial flaw with "Northfork", it is that there may be too much focus on the creation of mood to fully carry the story. This works most of the time, but there are moments, comedic and dramatic, which are missed (just barely) because the Polish's environment will not allow for it. But that should not scare anyone away. "Northfork" is not everyone's movie; many may be bored by it. But it is an easy recommendation to make. This is the kind of film that, even if your opinion of it ends up being less than favorable, you will be glad you saw.