If There’s a Hell Below

Abe (Conner Marx), a young journalist from Chicago, travels to the rural American West for a scoop that will undoubtedly jump-start his career. There he meets Debra (Carol Roscoe), a self-described government whistleblower who supposedly has a national security story weighing on her conscience. Convinced that someone is watching their every move, Debra is paranoid and reluctant to tell Abe anything, even after checking to make sure he’s not wearing a wire; Abe, on the other hand, drove over a thousand miles for Debra’s story, and he’s determined to get it. The first step is finding some way to convince Debra he’s trustworthy. The beginning of the film showcases what happens when two people with opposing desires can’t seem to figure out how to negotiate. As Abe and Debra dance around each other, crucial information hangs in the balance. Nathan Williams’ film is told in real time, with numerous scenes dedicated to showing the two characters driving along endless stretches of highway, attempting to find a place to talk where they can’t be overheard. Accordingly, the vast, dusty landscape of eastern Washington plays an important role, providing an atmospheric backdrop of anticipation and dread to put the finishing touch on this 1970s-inspired political thriller.

View on the Seattle International Film Festival website