Is there a scent to rain or lightning? There really isn’t but in the film torrid sex is happening during a storm. There is clearly a scent of trouble as a killing is about to happen, a killing that is the subject of this moody, atmospheric film.
With a title like THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTNING, one would expect a good atmospheric thriller. The film does look stunning, courtesy of cinematographer Lyn Moncrief, where his lightning is often just sufficient enough for the audience to see only what is necessary in the plot. The film is beautifully shot in Oklahoma with steers and cows roaming about in a ranch, the setting of the story, though not much work is shown with the animals on the ranch.
The film begins with a bearded inmate released from prison with the opening credits appearing on screen. It is a 5 – 10 minute. long opening that could have been cut shorter. The audiences is primed for a slower paced thriller than the norm of the thriller genre. It appears that a young woman’s parents’ killer has been released from jail. The woman is Jody Linder (Maika Monroe). Word in her small town suggests he may be innocent. Jody is also approached by the killer’s son that he is innocent of the murder. Jody begins questioning the police investigation and witnesses, and uncovers her own family secrets to piece together the shocking truth.
The film is based on the bestselling novel The Scent of Rain & Lightning by Nancy Pickard with a script written by two males, Jeff Robison and Casey Twenter and directed by a male director, Robbins (who gives himself a cameo as Sheriff Don Phelps). The film has therefore both a strong male and female point of view of the proceedings. This is a good thing, something rare in films these days with many a narrative leaning way too far towards either the female or male direction.
Director Robbins’s narrative is difficult to follow. There are many reasons for this unfortunate state of affairs. For one, all the females are blondes with long flowing hair. It takes a while to distinguish that one is the Linder mother, another the Linder daughter and yet another the grandmother. The flashbacks, a few too many flow into the main narrative at any time, making it difficult to tell which is which. The casting of Meg Crosbie as the young Jody and Maika Monroe as the older Jodie while all other characters undergoing age differences are performed by the same actor is also disorienting. The many dimly lit scenes do not help either. As the adult Linder pieces the puzzle of her father’s death so the audiences have to piece together the sense of the film’s plot.
As the title implies, the film might be more satisfying to the artsier crowd. The film also contains a non-Hollywood ending. The question of ‘what will Jody do after she discovers the truth of her father’s murder’ is not satisfactory answered. As such, it really makes no sense in the driving force of the narrative, whether she succeeds in her quest or not.