Suggesting an early David Gordon Green coming-of-age film relocated from the deep South to the Maine-Canada border, Beneath the Harvest Sky is set over the course of a week in which a five-day school break and the annual harvest of blue potatoes indigenous to the area converge. Casper Cody (Emory Cohen), dropping “there’s” at the end of virtually every other sentence, is a troublemaker from a broken home taken to referring to himself in the third person. Dominic Roy (Callan McAuliffe) is steadier, smarter, and more reserved, yet drawn to the capricious nature of his best friend. Casper’s father (Aidan Gillen) casually ropes his son into the family business of transporting pills across the border; ostensibly, Casper goes along with it to ensure financial stability upon learning his girlfriend is pregnant, but Cohen makes clear he would have drifted to this point anyway. Dominic works the harvest, saving cash for a new car, meant as the means for his and Casper’s escape, only to fall for Emma (Sarah Sutherland) and question his priorities.
Atmosphere and soundtrack do much of the heavy lifting throughout Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly’s feature. The film is most compellingly defined by its sense of place, aptly captured by the handheld cinematography, which repeatedly frames the story’s characters jovially interacting beneath the sky of the vaguely lyrical title, as if the future is merely meant for gabbing about and will never come to pass. The music, scored by Dustin Hamman, often in conjunction with his band Run on Sentence, overwhelms at a couple of crucial moments, but often is an evocative and unusual counterpoint to the film’s natural melody.
The heart of the film is in the spaces between the plot’s necessary setups and subsequent payoffs, and they’re nearly enough to completely redeem Beneath the Harvest Sky if not for the narrative going belly up in the third act. It’s there that it opts for an overblown depiction of divine intervention, which is only tangentially set up by a teacher’s lecture in the opening scenes, rather than letting its characters make their own stand or take their own fall. This is a film made with and full of love, but the main characters’ belief that they’re different from the rest of their insulated community ultimately stands in contrast to the insufficiently idiosyncratic film that contains them.