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Soundtrack review: Sweet Virginia (Brooke Blair and Will Blair – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Sweet Virginia (Brooke Blair and Will Blair – 2017)

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“Sweet Virginia” is a 2017 American thriller film directed by Jamie M. Dagg and written by Benjamin China and Paul China. The film stars Jon Bernthal, Christopher Abbott, Imogen Poots, Rosemarie DeWitt, Odessa Young and Jared Abrahamson. A former rodeo star, with a small time life, unknowingly starts a rapport with a young man who is responsible for the violence that has suddenly gripped his small town. Every character from his loved ones to his business patrons, plays a part in the unravelling of this community. Our aged hero must face his relationships of past and present to come up against this unpredictable predator. Brooke Blair and Will Blair wrote the score.

Jon Bernthal in a violent movie, yes please, I’ll take that any day. The Blair brothers have had a busy year, this is the fourth score by them I am reviewing in 2017 and they’ve been hit and miss so far. Right from the first cue “The opening” I know I am in for a different composition from them; their usually cold and electronic sound is deepened with a haunting cello texture that sets a very dark atmosphere right from the start. The next cue “Open fire” is even more compelling as the on and off percussion and dark brass sounds give me the strange sensation of falling into a deep pit. “Rodeo dream” takes me even deeper into the psyche of this score or of the main character with a combination of strings and dark electronic that could be my favourite Blair brothers cue yet; it’s short but the emotional impact is big.

As the score develops the texture makes me think of those thrillers were the main character goes on a doomed path of revenge once he’s got nothing left to lose, a path that he knows will take him to certain death but he doesn’t care about anything other than his mission. The cello, the violin and the thick dark soundscape the composers create when the other instruments are silent give me the chills and combine into the quintessential sound for a character that needs to become like the predator before being able to catch him.

“Sweet Virginia” is the kind of dark and deep minimalistic score that always comes right up my alley; Brooke Blair and Will Blair focused on one thing and one thing only with their music: the crushing loneliness of a man who knows that no matter what he does it will be wrong and with terrible consequences. No ray of light penetrates this gripping and opaque score that once it’s over makes me want to go outside and take a deep deep breath in the open air. “Sweet Virginia” pus the Blair brothers in the plus column for me once again and I can’t wait to see the movie because with music like this and Jon Bernthal’s talent in playing unhinged characters it will be a blast.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 17 / 28

Album excellence: 61%

Highlights:
Opening
Rodeo Dream
The Wake
Bernie and Sam (Bonus Track)
Bernie Leaves
Best Dad Ever
Elwood’s Bath
You’re Bleeding
Finale

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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