Red Betsy is a period drama that tells the tale of the Rounds, a farm family in Wisconsin during the 1940's and into the early 1950's.
The main characters are Winifred Rounds, played by Alison Elliott, who is an outsider who joins the Rounds family by marrying the only son of Emmet Rounds, played by Leo Burmester. We follow the thread of their stories as they deal with war, life changes, and change in their neck of the country when electricity arrives.
Winifred is uptight and snobbish having been born and raised in a city and having some college. She reluctantly agrees to live on the Rounds' farm while her husband, Dale, joins the Army Air Corps and heads off to fight in World War II.
Emmet Rounds is the area eccentric and mechanical wizard. He loves his son Dale and can't for the life of him figure out how he found and fell in love with Winifred. He doesn't care for her much but makes the best of it for Dale's sake.
After tragedy takes away their connection to each other, Winifred and Emmet have to learn how to live together while each try to maintain their individuality. Another connection arrives soon after and they each struggle to put their own stamp on it.
I thought Red Betsy was a good film. The main leads were excellent. I always enjoy Leo Burmester's work so I wasn't disappointed. Alison Elliott was a treat as the snobbish Winifred. You almost feel sorry for her as she is stuck in a community she feels is not her station. You sense the disappointment as she sees where she is at and longing for where she could have been. Her relationship with Dale at the beginning of the film seems real and loving but you ask yourself how did Dale end up with her.
The music was excellent and captured the sparse living in the hinterlands of Wisconsin.
I thought the one thing against the film was it tried to cram so much into such a small time frame of 98 minutes. When you have little film time and so much to cover it can end up looking like a mush. I thought the director did a good job by focusing on the main story of Winifred and Emmet. He was less successful when his lens focused on other issues like the subplot with Orin Sanders, played by Chad Lowe, and Winifred when Orin brought electricity to the school house she taught at.
The director also weakened the narrative when including a mini-sub plot involving young Charlie, who happens to be the narrator of the short story this film is based on. The film can work without having to include everything from the source.
My guess is that the writer had a problem ending the film because the Christmas ending was too cliché'. I was looking for a bittersweet ending to match the bittersweet story.
This was a better than average independent film that everyone who lives in the Midwest or wants to know about the Midwest during the time period should see.
A tip of the hat goes to our local mega-plex who actually had this film with normal viewing times. It was good to see them support regional film-making.
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