The Reel Review

C

A down on her luck teacher escapes her troubled marriage by taking a temporary assignment at a school in Owl, a tiny remote town in North Dakota, four months before a devastating blizzard changes her life. Lily Rabe stars in this dramedy she directed with her longtime partner, Hamish Linklater.

Rebecca Hudgins and Lily Rabe in Downtown Owl

For a film featuring an impressive cast that includes Ed Harris, Henry Golding, Finn Wittrock and Rebecca Hudgins, Downtown Owl is one very strange story that seems uncertain whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama, usually failing at both. Only two characters come off as likable – Harris’ Horace, a sweet old man with a heartbreaking secret, and August Blanco Rosenstein’s Mitch, the depressed high school backup quarterback frustrated that everyone in the tiny town is aware but doing nothing about the high school football coach’s affair with a student that he’s gotten pregnant.

Lily Rabe and Ed Harris in Downtown Owl 

From clunky, unfocused storytelling with lots of subplots that go nowhere, some strange camerawork and clumsy “what she said/what she meant” moments, Downtown Owl feels more like a mostly unflattering, amateurish character portrait of life in a remote, small town that has no real point and a frustrating thud of an ending.

REEL FACTS

Downtown Owl is loosely based on Chuck Klosterman’s 2008 novel, which featured three main characters, in the movie played by Lily Rabe, Ed Harris and August Blanco Rosenstein.

2023 photo of Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater

Downtown Owl is the directorial debut for Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe, who have three children together.

• Although set in North Dakota, Downtown Owl was filmed in Minnesota.

 

 

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