The California drought gets a pulpy dramatic treatment in the investigative thriller "Pray for Rain," directed by Alex Ranarivelo and written by Christina Moore and Gloria Musca. But "Chinatown," this is not. This family drama follows a young woman, Emma (Annabelle Stephenson), as she reluctantly returns to her small Central California hometown for her father's funeral and uncovers a deadly conspiracy and shadowy figures controlling the water supply in a valley full of desperate farmers.
Making her living in New York as a fashion writer, Emma's reportorial instincts take over after a series of violent gang threats. She starts investigating the circumstances of her father's death, leading to mysterious environmental groups, shady real estate deals and a lot of paid muscle intimidating farmers into selling their land cheaply.
Her strained relationship with her mother (Jane Seymour) nearly cracks under the pressure, as the complicated web reveals family secrets. But when it all unravels, it's more straightforward than meets the eye.
The drought is ultimately presented as a man-made occurrence, wrapped up in regulations and red tape, rather than a troubling environmental reality. The reality is far more complicated than anything that can be neatly wrapped up within the conventions of genre filmmaking.
'Pray for Rain'
Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements and some violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills