A Perfect Day for Caribou


Title: A Perfect Day for Caribou (2022)    
Director: Jeff Rutherford
Writer: Jeff Rutherford    
Studio: Fred Senior Films 

IMDb Plot: An estranged father and son spend the day ambling around a cemetery, wandering the wilderness, searching for family, and stumbling through disharmony and heartache.      

Joe Says: A Perfect Day For Caribou has these long, steady shots of the Oregon plains. Black-and-white never looked so good. And although strikingly beautiful, the plodding narrative is s-l-o-w. 

A Perfect Day For Caribou has these long, steady shots of the Oregon plains. The horizon is endless; the sky is amazingly open. Absent from view are high rise condos and dollar stores and signs for burger chains. Writer/director Jeff Rutherford minimally stages his show in a flat cemetery, scattered among flat weeds. There is the earth. There is the sky. And there is Herman and Nate and ten-years worth of awkward conversation. Black-and-white never looked so good.

The movie starts as Herman (Jeb Berrier) plans to end his life. His introductory monologue is an audio suicide note of ramblings and memories and warnings. A farewell to a son he barely knew. Until that son, Nate (Charlie Plummer), surprisingly reaches out. Nate, you see, has questions. About his heritage. His health. His dead-end job. His fate as a father. He wonders out loud if he is going to make the same mistakes as Herman. Herman sees all this as his last event on Earth. This is still his secret. For Nate, this is an unplanned encounter. Only we know Herman is going to die! But he tags along. He attempts to share in his wisdom. He answers questions. And the two of them – father and son – smoke a plantation’s worth of cigarettes all the while.

Herman does one up his son on a certain account. He has the better lighter.

A Perfect Day for Caribou Slamdance Feature

While they trod along the cemetery – a fitting place for a dying man, his dying relationship, and Nate’s dead prospects  – Nate’s toddler (Oellis Levine) conveniently disappears into the vast openness of the Oregon sky. Dysfunctional father and son head off in search of the only legacy either has. And they talk a little. And they smoke a lot. And they walk further than the typical 90-minute movie would lead. 

There is little urgency in their quest but this mission of theirs is mostly metaphor. Herman holds onto what little of the past he has. Nate contemplates the hopelessness of his situation. All the while, Rutherford and director of photography Alfonso Herrera Salcedo masterfully present a visual treat of black-and-white visuals at a 4:3 format ratio. 

There would inevitably be those call outs to Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. Yet where Nebraska was all about closure, A Perfect Day For Caribou is more about exposition; a chance to air out questions, regardless if answered. 

Jeb Berrier in A Perfect Day for Caribou
Jeb Berrier as Herman

Plummer mumbles through most of his dialogue allowing his body language to seethe with twentysomething frustration. Berrier, though, is all about emoting. He gives Herman life and a story. His schlubby hair and white tube socks explode with a commanding presence as he remembers; his tales weaving between the important and the transient. 

A Perfect Day For Caribou is also slow. Although strikingly beautiful, the plodding narrative is infuriatingly simplistic. Nate and Herman each have their raw emotions to explore but Rutherford seems more interested in their walking and not in talking. While both Nate and Herman’s day sets, their relationship is denied a peaceful nightfall. Instead, all remains as gray as the monochromatic experience. 

Oftentimes, the journey is what matters. In A Perfect Day For Caribou, Rutherford presents a migration where the journey is compelling but fertile land does not become the destination.

Check out the movie’s site for more info on Jeff Rutherford’s visual movie: aperfectdayforcaribou.com

Be sure to catch A Perfect Day for Caribou – and many other indie projects – over on Slamdance

A version of this review appears on Cinefied.com

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