- Director: Chantelle Han, Steven Garbas
- Writer: Steven Garbas, Philip Irwin
- Stars: Chantelle Han, Charles Boyland
With it’s Canadian premiere at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival, Peppergrass is more a showcase of Chantelle Han’s myriad of talents than anything else and that’s a bit of a mixed blessing.
In a very timely move, the film is set during a pandemic and Eula Baek (Han) has devised a plan to not only try to keep her restaurant afloat during these difficult times, but to also honor and keep her grandfather’s legacy alive via his recipes. With her friend (and sometime bedfellow) Morris (Charles Boyland), the two are going to drive to the remote property of a reclusive man who happens to have truffles growing on his land.
Truffles, especially white truffles, are a prized food ingredient not only because they are the missing ingredient that Eula needs for one of her grandfather’s recipes, but also because they are worth a lot of money and she is in desperate need of that as well. After a long drive, Eula and Morris make it to the home of Captain Reuber and his giant pig. From here, things do not go as planned and that’s mostly because Morris is an asshole, but that was established from the moment we met him, so it’s not a huge surprise, but it’s still obnoxious.
Peppergrass is a truly beautiful film: cinematographer Grant Cooper has done something wonderful here. Taking place almost completely at night, the movie could have easily fallen victim to simply being dark, but despite Eula fighting for survival with just a cell phone and a box of matches to light her way and keep her warm, the beautiful landscape that she travels is lovingly showcased. Eula is a strong and capable woman who also happens to be pregnant (which is the only reason I brought up her past with Morris) and the way this personal detail contributes to the story feels forced and unnecessary. A pregnant protagonist is no longer interesting in the grand scheme of things. What is interesting, though, is the small things Eula does that let us into her personality. She wears her eyeliner like warpaint, has a dry sense of humor and a strong sense of self. Quite frankly, the most improbable thing about Peppergrass outside of how long her phone battery lasts is her relationship with Morris. Eula simply doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would waste her time with such a, well, waste of time.
Peppergrass is a slow burn, so you are either in for that or you’re not, but if you choose to take this journey, you will be rewarded with an interesting premise that plays out in ways you won’t expect and the ending may be my favorite thing about it. Writers Steven Garbas and Philip Irwin make a choice that will infuriate some viewers, but also feels exceptionally appropriate. Garbas is also a director on the film alongside Han and the level of blood, sweat and tears that was put into Peppergrass is evident in every frame. Unfortunately, the pacing of the film kind of goes beyond slow burn and into the ‘why is this taking so long’ area. Billed as a thriller, one can’t wonder if it’s better suited to the drama genre simply because, while there are lives at stake, there is never any real suspense or tension. Ultimately, Peppergrass is a really pretty movie that doesn’t fully deliver on it’s promise of thrilling the viewer.
Played as part of The Blood In The Snow Festival