Raindance Film Festival: Major Arcana

Major Arcana
Major Arcana

Dircected by Josh Melrod
Starring Ujon Tokarski, Tara Summers and Lane Bradbury

by Alex Plant

There is an undeniable enjoyableness to observing somebody capable of undertaking a task that you couldn’t comprehend doing yourself. There’s a pureness to the skill that is almost hypnotic. Long time editor/first-time director Josh Melrod understands this idea and Major Arcana is nothing if not a study in rapt observation.

We’re introduced to Dink (Tokarski), who, after a vaguely mysterious four year absence, returns to his home town in Vermont where he’s inherited his recently deceased father’s land and $15,000. Used to a life of transience, he’s far more comfortable sleeping in a tent and bathing in a creek than he is in his father’s dilapidated old shack. After a visit from his money obsessed mother and a less than smooth reunion with old flame Sierra (Summers), he sets out into his newly inherited woodland estate and starts building himself a cabin.

The drama is gentle, and the stakes don’t feel huge. That’s clearly a conscious choice. Tokarski and Summers have a decent chemistry, and it’s an interesting look at how toxic relationships impede the bettering of the self. However, it’s the cabin building scenes where Major Arcana really shines. It’s easy to relate to the idea of having a project that becomes an obsessive safe-haven amongst a world that increasingly doesn’t make sense. It’s a pleasure to watch real-life-carpenter Tokarski work and even more impressive when you realise that this is not only his first film, but his first time acting as well. Dink’s relationship with the cabin he builds is a fascinating reflection of the romance he tries to rekindle with Sierra and the manifestation of his self-imposed ostracisation from the local community.

The concept of predestiny is more subtly woven into Major Arcana than perhaps the title suggests. The relatively short runtime keeps it from feeling too ponderous, but there is also a sense that there could have been a little more gravitas to the proceedings. The film does work though, and is best viewed as a tale of self-improvement.


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