Review: Calico Skies – a dark, strange fever dream

calico skies starring tom sizemore

Some movies sidle up next to you and throw you off balance. You watch ’em and feel like you’re in the middle of a fever-dream three-quarters the way through, not really sure what it did to you after the credits roll. Calico Skies is that kind of movie.

Synopsis: “Self condemned to the immense and boundless prison of the Mojave desert, Phoenix leads a life of forced isolation. Every month he digs a hole in the middle of nowhere and buries something. When a new mail-carrier, Ariel, begins delivering to him Phoenix’s life derails in an escalation that leads him to dangerous consequences which will be impossible to escape.”

Anyone who grew up watching crime/action films in the 90’s knows exactly who Tom Sizemore (Heat, True Romance, and a cameo in Point Break) is and what he brings to a movie. He’s usually a loose cannon, but always cooler than cool. With his portrayal of Phoenix, Sizemore reveals a new dimension to his acting that many haven’t seen before. Phoenix’s neurotic, depressed, pharma-enhanced, anti-social behavior puts Sizemore’s prowess as an actor front and center and draws the audience in to the mystery of who he is and why he’s secluded himself to the desert. Sizemore himself tweeted that this is his best work since 2002  – a statement that the audience would be hard-pressed to disagree with.

tom sizemore in calico skies

Writer/director Valerio Esposito gives Sizemore the perfect environment to explore the character of Phoenix. Filmed at Joshua Tree in California, the vast expanse and isolation of the scenery (captured in some really gorgeous shots) parallels Phoenix’s own, gruff, intensely flawed and emotionally vulnerable disposition. The pacing of the film ranges from erratic to methodically straight-forward, creating an almost surrealistic flavor to Phoenix’s quasi-institutionalized lifestyle.

The rest of the cast seemed to float in and out of the cinematic experience that is Phoenix’s fugue state, with only Christina Lind as Ariel snapping him back to reality on occasion. While Charlotte De Bruyne (Charlotte) and Kiowa Gordon (Bamboo) were standout additions to this movie, each adding to the dreamlike tone of the film with their own distinct eccentricities, this was most definitely Sizemore’s movie through and through.

christina lind and tom sizemore in Calico Skies

Just like Phoenix, Calico Skies is a singular creature in that it’s the straight dope direct from Esposito’s mind. It wasn’t made to be a crowd-pleaser or a franchise installment and it most certainly doesn’t ape/imitate any conventional genre currently out there. It falls more into the arthouse/outré indie world in that it almost dares the audience not to like it with its abrasiveness (and, admittedly a few of the performances were a little stiff). Along with giving Sizemore the optimal conditions to really dig into his character, it put Valerio Esposito on our radar, curious as to what strange, twisted project he’ll unleash on us next.

You can rent Calico Skies on any VoD platform and let us know what you thought on Twitter @Official_FAN