An Indigenous American single mother entwined in a sordid affair finds herself on the run with her 3-year-old son in Colin Bressler’s social drama No Promised Land.
Throughout cinema, there are a number of films that tell the stories of women wanting to escape their seemingly mundane existence. What you tend to find is that they are all a product of their time. An early example is 1945’s Mildred Pierce, a melodrama that saw Joan Crawford winning an Oscar for playing a hard-working single mother who wanted to start her own restaurant business. In order to become independent, she first had to divorce her husband, and it is the consequences of this decision that become the focus of the film because, in the 1940s, divorce was seen as a scandalous activity. Thankfully, times have changed, and women are no longer seen as second-class citizens, although with the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade abortion rights in the US, it seems there is still some way to go.
The writer and director of No Promised Land, Colin Bressler, draws on the idea of female loneliness and class by telling the story of an Indigenous American single parent struggling to make things work. Our unnamed heroine is played with great intensity by actress Destiny Soria. She has an affair with a married businessman and accidentally becomes pregnant. When she decides to keep the baby, her lover becomes vengeful, pushing them both to the extreme fringes of society. Although some of her wounds are self-inflicted, she fights against the systemic and oppressive structures built into her environment. Bressler wants us to ask ourselves serious questions about the human condition. Why is it that even when the odds are so heavily stacked against us, many in our society manage to make it work, succeeding against all these odds?
It is an all-too-common story of a single mother and her child on the edge of the social ladder, told many times before, but Bressler tells it in a way that embraces the details instead of trying to achieve some sort of universal statement. Where Bressler’s vision stands out is in how he, as the writer, director, and cinematographer, decides to present it. He creates a non-linear story, intercutting flashbacks of happier times with the distress of his characters’ current predicament. A dusty color scheme of browns, yellows, and greens, desert environments, and scenes set in a small trailer, highlight the isolation of our protagonist as she tries to make ends meet. While the soft piano soundtrack helps to create an emotional attachment between the viewer and the film’s characters.
There is No Promised Land guaranteed in today’s society, but Bressler’s film is a powerful and emotional feature whose story explores the themes of desperation, social class differences, and the power of motherhood. Throughout its 65-minute runtime, its non-linear narrative remains a very intriguing aspect of its plot and a clever directorial choice that keeps the audience guessing until the very end. With some strong performances from its actors, especially Soria who gives a very moving portrayal, No Promised Land is a film very much of its time that is also worth an hour of your time.