There’s exactly one fascinating, original character in Anna Axster’s well-meaning but bland debut feature, “A Country Called Home.” Unfortunately, the movie’s not about him.
Rising star Mackenzie Davis steals every scene she’s in as Reno, a transgender singer-songwriter who gigs at hostile honky-tonks in and around his small Texas hometown. One night, Reno meets Ellie (Imogen Poots), a struggling Los Angeles furniture-designer who’s flown in to attend her estranged father’s funeral. The outsiders’ fast friendship helps them understand what they want from life.
But it mostly helps Ellie … and therein lies the problem with “A Country Called Home.” Poots is a likable young actress, but she’s stuck playing the dullest kind of indie drama cliche: the lost soul who finds herself after taking a trip into her past.
It doesn’t help that Axster populates her Texas setting with stock types: unreliable alcoholics, mean-spirited bigots and an overwhelmed single dad played by the director’s husband, Oscar-winning musician Ryan Bingham. Nearly every character who isn’t Reno is either thinly drawn or relies on unflattering perceptions of Texans.
June Squibb has nice moments as Ellie’s grandmother Judy, a kindly woman who fills her calendar with community activities. But the warmer, fresher presence of Judy and Reno only clarifies what’s wrong with the rest of “A Country Called Home,” a paint-by-numbers indie that barely uses its most vivid hues.
‘A Country Called Home’
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Vintage Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles