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Calico Skies (2017) Review

Slow burn thriller about a man in the desert starring Tom Sizemore.

Calico Skies is a 2017 thriller about a man who has self-condemned himself to the immense and boundless prison of the desert, digging holes in the dirt while falling for his mail carrier.

The quiet exiled life of a man stuck in his own spinning drain makes for some truly compelling characters in film, those living in the ruts formed by the daily trudges of routine. Such is the case in Valerio Esposito‘s latest drama Calico Skies, a unique little film about a man on a bizarre journey through life, soon to be upended.

Phoenix (Tom Sizemore) used to be a professional thrill-seeker, jumping out of planes in wingsuits, but now is settled in the desert, isolated from most, preferring to keep to himself. He sticks to a very particular routine of prescribed medications, walks to the distant coffee shop and sits alone, and pacifies his hunger with a simple concoction of basics. He appears to have no job but does have income and we suspect something isn’t right in his preoccupation with the mail, something that goes askew with a new carrier named Ariel (Christina Bennett Lind), a pretty brunette who seems to take notice.

Written and directed by Esposito, Calico Skies is an unusual gem, one that burrows into your head as the story expands and the people in orbit around him come more into focus. Clearly up to bad things, it’s a good while before we learn just exactly what when he comes home one day to men in his house who then shoot another who comes by next and Phoenix is obviously bound to the process. That’s stress enough, but new neighbors arrive on the scene, an unhappy couple with a young son who all seem to try and ingratiate themselves into Phoenix’s life, much to his frustration. Meanwhile, Ariel creeps ever-persistently into his waking fantasies. Then there’s the holes in the desert he digs through the secret floor panel of his windowless van and the tattoos on his feet.

Calico Skies
Calico Skies, 2017 © Hot Tub Films

It’s hard to nail down Calico Skies, it’s pace and meandering a challenge sometimes to get through as scenes unravel in randomness that reveal the curious life of Phoenix, and to be sure, no matter the sometimes circuitous plotting, Sizemore is the glue to it all. The actor, most known for his action films, is on a whole other plane here, creating a powerfully effective spin on a familiar character. He’s always played bigger-than-life characters a little left of center, but not like this. Here he’s small, a wreck of a man barely able to deal with the slightest change in his day, and it’s mesmerizing to watch. It’s the little quirks and deeply-invested idiosyncrasies that bind and the tragedy of his past that wears heavily on him, seen clearly in a terrific performance that is surprisingly layered. It’s some of his best work.

The mysteries to the why’s and what’s of Phoenix are eventually laid open and naturally there are consequences. While the film is more interested in developing Phoenix, an ironic name that is not lost on Esposito, there is a driving compulsion to see its end, the man such a curious emotional oddity it’s impossible not to follow his fate … and his influence. Credit goes to Esposito for going places unexpected, especially in the final moments, one that plays out precisely as it should. Calico Skies is a small wonder driven by a flawed and broken character that will, by its end, move you.

Calico Skies (2017) Review

Movie description: Calico Skies is a 2017 thriller about a self-condemned to the immense and boundless prison of the desert, digging a hole every month.

Director(s): Valerio Esposito

Actor(s): Tom Sizemore, Christina Bennett Lind, Vincent Pastore

Genre: Drama

  • Our Score
User Rating 4.5 (4 votes)
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