Ask any married couple, or long term partner, about that time things might have been different. I'm not talking about before the commitment, or even about hasty decisions. I'm talking about that time that comes afterwards. After the courtship, after the honeymoon period - after a relationship has been firmly established. That time when a person realizes this wasn't the life they had hoped for - or signed up for. When the spark has dwindled a little, and the only thing that really seems to keep the forward momentum going, is a sense of familiarity. We feel comfortable with what we know - and even if things are not perfect, that sense of the familiar life is a strong motivator to not change a thing.
That idea of loving the person you are with, even though it's more about that familiar life than love, that comfort, is the real story of Michael Stevantoni's film. All that I wrote above, is visually represented within "Salton Sea" while at the same time, not overly in your face. The main story involves Brian, his wife Ramona and step-daughter Judith. Brian strives to be a good man and works hard to provide for his family. In his eyes however, the life he has promised Ramona is a meager one. The life of a family attempting to live within a lower middle class salary. Brian ends up being offered a promotion that would mean a lot of extra money... but they would have to move to D.C. Ramona definitely does not want to go, especially with Washington in the midst of crisis. Never mind the regular mess of things back in the early 00's, the D.C. sniper was on the prowl - clearly not the family atmosphere Ramona wants.
Backed with some visually stunning locations, and a great eye capturing these locations, "Salton Sea" looks and sounds great. But it's a muted kind of great, as many of the background locations are bleak. This serves to really showcase the excellent talent in front of the lens. As our leading couple, Joel Bissonnette and Keylor Leigh have a chemistry that just works for this film. No need to try and analyze why - these two just fall into place as a real life married couple. This includes the not really talked about feelings I opened this write-up with. Excellent performances all around.
The supporting roles are also handled well by a troupe of very talented people. At no point in this film did I feel a role should have been cast in a different direction. At no point did I feel a line was over acted or under played. Obviously, this isn't an action flick. The interest and drama come from the actors within this beautiful, bleak world... and never does it disappoint. It's easy to fall into Stevantoni's realistic world. It's easy for most to relate, on some level, to the pains - struggles and hopes of it's characters. We can understand the relationship tribulations, we can understand Brian's need to provide a better life. We can also understand Ramona's reluctance - and even sadness at their current state. As for the story itself, how does it all play out? You'll simply have to watch and see.
At the end of the day, for being a simple drama, I was fully impressed. Perhaps it was because under all the simplicity, "Salton Sea" deals with a lot of complex situations and feelings. No doubt this film is character driven, but considering the cast all performed so well, "Salton Sea" was simply a great film to watch. It's rare in the indie world to find such a gem. An independent film that doesn't rely on blood, gore or horror to keep it's audience tuned in. A good story, a good crew, and a few talented people to execute the scenes. A solid, completely earned four stars.