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VOD Review: Major Arcana

November 6, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

There are so many different ways people grieve, that there is really no “right” way to deal with the death of a close family member, especially one that you had a complicated relationship with. This becomes a main theme in writer/director Josh Melrod’s micro budget indie film Major Arcana, a quiet drama set in rural Vermont which follows a troubled carpenter who responds to the death of his estranged father by putting all of his physical energy into building a cabin in the woods with his bare hands.

At the start of the film, Dink (Ujon Tokarski) is going through the scattered remnants of his father’s house. The place is a dump, but we get the sense he knows what he is looking for. He goes to a vent in the wall, pulls out a hidden envelope of cash, and pockets most of it. Dink is a recovering alcoholic who has been drifting around after leaving town. In an attempt to stave off the temptation to drink or fall into his old habits, Dink starts cutting down trees and building a small house on the 52 acres of property that have been left to him by his father.

Tokarski, a non-actor who was cast by Melrod for his real life carpentry skills, does a fine job of carrying the film, delivering a worn in and naturalistic performance. Elements of the story, including a romantic subplot with an old flame (Tara Summers) and the more disturbing aspects of Dink’s backstory, which are only revealed late in the film, do feel somewhat underdeveloped and unexplored. But Major Arcana still works as a low-key, modestly engaging character study, and there is a meditative quality to the well shot sequences that patiently observe Dink constructing his new home from the ground up.

Major Arcana is now available on a variety of digital and VOD platforms. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

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