There’s a slippery charm to writer-director-star Ryon Baxter’s debut feature “Green Is Gold.” It draws out your affection and your concerns for its pot-growing brothers at different times, until they kind of build on each other. At the end, it sneaks up on you how invested you are.
After his father (David Fine) is sent to prison, 13-year-old Mason (Jimmy Baxter) is saved from child protective services by his twentysomething brother Cameron (Ryon), an immature high-school dropout whose nascent marijuana-cultivating business on a secluded, hilly Northern California property seems hardly the place to add a crash course in instant parenting.
Between the expected sibling tensions and loose, close-knit goofiness there’s a nurturing sturdiness on display. Mason can be a snarling pain, but his eagerness to learn weed farming brings out a guiding protectiveness in Cameron, whose bromantic view of life on the edge nonetheless makes you see trouble around every corner.
And indeed, Baxter whips up a surprisingly tense final act when the pair make their first delivery — namely, everything they’ve grown — to a dealer’s house. It’s a sequence in which the ways the suspense and tenderness are rendered is surprising considering the micro-indie, hanging-out vibe of everything that’s come before. Often exhibiting the best of DIY cinema sensibilities — a mixture of focus, mood, and lived-in characterizations — “Green Is Gold” augurs good things for the multi-hyphenate Baxter.
‘Green Is Gold’
Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes
MPAA rating: R, for pervasive drug content, language throughout and some sexuality/nudity
Playing: Arena Cinelounge at the Montalban Theatre, Hollywood