In this hallmark of 1970s independent cinema—the mythically masterful debut of director Terrence Malick—Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek play Kit and Holly, young lovers in 1950s South Dakota who go on the run across the American West, committing a string of murders along the way. Oates turns in an unforgettable supporting performance as Holly’s father, whose staunch rejection of Kit and Holly’s budding romance leads to a chilling act of violence and annihilation that launches the pair on their crime-ridden cross-country spree. Malick’s film overflows with lyrical visual motifs that juxtapose gestures of horrendously casual brutality against the expansively beautiful natural landscapes of the titular region. The result is a genuinely singular take on the cinematic tradition of lovers on the run, a hauntingly gorgeous American nightmare whose images and characters have left an indelible trace on the history of American cinema.
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