“Texas is the place where so much of the entire West was born. There is that sense of freedom. And it has to do with ownership of space.”
Joyce Gibson Roach, Folklorist and author of The Cowgirls
Directed by Sarah Brennan Kolb, Good Ol Girl explores the struggle between long-held traditions and female independence and the slow fade of rural life. This documentary profiles three cowgirls as they try to forge a life for themselves in a man’s world. These are women who want to show that they can compete with the guys and do what they do but still be a woman in their own right.
Mandy is a rancher who raises beef cattle and bison. She’s religious and firmly traditional. She struggles with the internal battle of opposing desires: to thrive as an independent business woman and to be a wife and mother.
Sara is the next in line to run the family ranch. However, she bucks with tradition and decides to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Martha desperately wants to work in agriculture but can’t find a job. With the encroaching suburbs, land is far more valuable for housing development than it is for ranching making job options scarce.
“I was born and bred to be a cowgirl.”
Filmmaker Kolb grew up in Texas and says this about what she observed:
“Strict adherence to ‘traditional’ gender roles, political powerlessness over one’s own body, and the assumption that a woman’s place was safe inside a ranch-style house, permeated the lives around me. Like most women, I discovered that accepting the dissonance between the person you are on the inside, and the face you present to the world, is part of growing up.”
Good Ol Girl effectively demonstrates the struggle these women face to live within the confines of their strictly gendered upbringing while also seeking independence through their respective careers. The documentary felt uneven at times. Mandy’s story was far more interesting. For those of you sensitive to footage of dead animals, there is a particularly jarring scene where Mandy discovers one of her heifers died during childbirth. I still can’t get that image out of my mind.
Dave (Adam Edwards) drifts through life just going through the motions day in and day out. He’s the face of Mattress Temple, the mattress store he inherited from his dad. When he’s not at work he’s at home having awkward interactions with his emotionally distant wife Jess (Lindsay Gustin). One day everything changes. He learns from his sole employee Miguel (Sami Ismail ) that the health department investigated a bed bug infestation and shut down the store until further notice. Someone is leaving mysterious piles of poop in his neighbor Carl’s (Joseph Graham) yard. A strange old woman is lurking behind trees. Jess seems more disconnected from Dave than ever. Dave decides to take up smoking and has an odd encounter with an angry store clerk Behth (Anna Tran). Then there are the glitches in time, mysterious globs of blood, a urinal that serves as a time portal and a deer man who appears out of nowhere. Half way through Dave’s journey everything resets and we discover that nothing really happened. Everything is back as it once was but Dave starts to question what was reality and what was a figment of his imagination. It turns out that his well-meaning but misguided friend Randy (Bobby Dornbos) has put him through subconscious coercion therapy and tries to reset the damage of the first go ‘round. Dave struggles to make sense of what has happened or hasn’t happened as he uncovers even more confusing secrets about his reality.
“Do you think people notice how unaware they are?”
Nothing Really Happens is a quirky, offbeat film that blends The Matrix with Eternal Sunshine on a Spotless Mind. This Houston-based indie is writer/director Justin Petty’s film debut. It’s part science fiction, part comedy, part horror and 100% weird. You have to be in the right head space for this film otherwise it can overwhelm you with its peculiar brand of storytelling. The film serves as a metaphysical exploration of how disconnected we are as a society. Throughout the story there are various truth bombs dropped on the audience that make us pause and wonder if we’re really present in our own realities or if we’re detached like Dave.
Nothing Really Happens is available on Amazon Prime, Tubi, Google Play, YouTube and iTunes. Visit the official website for more information.