Routine, loneliness, and complexity in CALICO SKIES
The Mojave desert can be a lonely place to live. You might as well dig holes to stay busy.
Calico Skies is director Valerio Esposito’s second feature film, his first being the Italian film Tode Ti (2013).
Tom Sizemore plays Phoenix, who lives in isolation and simplicity and would not have it any other way. He has a regimented and ritualistic lifestyle – after waking, he takes his medication, mixes a smoothie, walks into town to buy a coffee (making himself noticeable to others, without actually engaging in conversation), he pretends to work out, purchases marijuana and a few snacks, and is successfully high by the time he returns home. At night he medicates himself enough to fall asleep with the television on. He does not smoke as “smoke smells” and “smoking is for construction workers”. Once a month he digs a hole in a designated spot and buries a series of black garbage bags – this is his “job”. Phoenix lives in constant fear after witnessing his brother’s murder, so familiarity and routines keep him safe.
On his trip back from the coffee shop one afternoon, he meets John (Malcolm Barrett) who attempts to start a conversation with him. The moment John asks Phoenix why he puts Alka Seltzer in his coffee, Phoenix immediately makes a clean exit. It is later, when Phoenix meets Danny (Johnny Sinclair) and his father Luigi (Luigi Jacuzio), that Phoenix begins to open up and share dialogue. They invite Phoenix over for dinner where he meets Charlotte (Charlotte De Bruyne), Luigi’s wife. Phoenix begins to struggle at times trying to maintain his daily routines, while associating and interacting with those souls with whom he has recently become acquainted.
It is when Ariel (Christina Bennett Lind) takes over the mail route and begins interacting and speaking to Phoenix, that his world becomes much more complicated. All Phoenix can think about is Ariel, giving meaning to his otherwise mundane existence. So much so that he begins to lose control of his once stable world, and he begins to witness his reality becoming unraveled.
Esposito successfully showcases a character who clearly lives a lonely life, yet is allowed over time to recognize, interact, and learn to care more about others. What was once a detailed and systematic account of his safe and secure world, soon evolves into a grander world, centered by the love of a woman. By the third act, Phoenix appears to recognize how his world has changed…but he seems to struggle with his timing. Clocked at only 78 minutes, this is a brief yet interesting film.