By Bill White
Filmed in Oklahoma, “Barking Water” is as spare as dirt-road vegetation and as rich as the play of light across sun-streaked skies. Frankie and Irene don’t say much to each other, but their glances are filled with lacerated hopes and the shards of not quite forgotten disappointments. Both Whitman and Camp-Horinek give performances that are so honest, so true, that they seem to be as much a part of the wind and the rock as they are of each other.
The themes of love, regret, and the inexorable passing of time are treated with a stoic delicacy that is deepened by every crease in Frankie and Irene’s faces. On the road, they have several encounters with young people who comment on their oldness with attitudes ranging from awe to disrespect. But their aging is not only human but the aging also of the land, the aging of history. As they drive across Oklahoma, it is not only Frankie taking a last look at the world in which he has lived, but the wind making its last visit across the dying man’s still searching face.
Watching “Barking Water,” we can’t help but think of how many centuries the Choctaw tribes have lived in this land now called Oklahoma, and how many stories have been played out beneath this sun. When we consider how limited is the range of American experience that is glorified in our movies, we realize that our desires and concerns are but a sliver in the whole circle of life surrounding us. Sharing this road trip with Frankie and Irene enriches not only our sense of humanity but brings us closer to confronting our own nature as creatures in the wild who are fortunate to feel the wind and the splashing of rain across our faces.
By Brian Miller
Below: "Richard Ray Whitman and Casey Camp-Horinek give deeply affecting performances as estranged lovers who take one last road trip together in Barking Water."