All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt Review- A Minimalistic Low-Key Take On Motherhood and Nurturing Youth (Sundance 2023)

Minimalist films are something you don’t see that often but when they do come out they are usually celebrated. The Tree of Life from director Terrance Malick comes to mind. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is another such film. It depicts the lives of Black men, women, and children in rural Mississippi. There isn’t much dialogue but when there is it’s very little and muddled. The visuals and the camera work are the real champions here.

Raven Jackson lets the viewers in on her eye site with what she decides to focus on with her camera. She has many shots that stay on characters for what seemed like forever also on people washing their hands in streams or even just shots of water or random shots of trees. A few different narratives include a father and daughter fishing and cleaning said fish that they catch and two sisters from a young age into adulthood. There is a passing of time within the film which sees the kids go up into adults.

Various scenes in the movie show mothers nurturing their babies or taking baths while pregnant. The narrative is that of how important the mother-child relationship is. The director shows these moments with beautiful tenderness and intimacy. Other moments of characters showing love for one another once again show a very intimate portrayal of love. The characters are there but they aren’t the focus as much as the aspect of who they are portraying. As in mothers, sisters, and daughters.

The cast, even though they aren’t as important as the camerawork, are some relatively famous actors and actresses. Sheila Atim, (The Woman King) Moses Ingram (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Chris Chalk (Red Sea Diving Resort) are beautifully filmed in their various scenes throughout the movie. There are also two little girls played by Kaylee Nicole Johnson and Jayah Henry who are newcomers but they are both very good in their roles. They have a nice narrative. 

Jackson puts her glaze on creation and youth and how even in this world it’s all about love for youth and infants but also love for adults. She shows love in its many permutations in the movie and I couldn’t stop looking at all these scenes. It’s not a fantastical love, it’s a grounded subtle quiet type of love and you can’t help but be moved by the many scenes that show these types of tenderness. It’s truly beautiful to behold. 

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt isn’t going to be for everybody. It’s not a bombastic type of film. It’s a very subtle love letter to mothers and nurturing of youth in this Mississippi community. The camera work and the cinematography are the real champions of this movie. She creates a world that is so beautiful and so tender and touching it’s pretty amazing. For those that do give this film a chance, you see a very understated minimalist film. It’s worth your time though. Everything doesn’t have to be bombastic, funny, and have explosions to be effective. 

3 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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