It’s interesting how the film industry is frequently plagued by similar movies coming out at similar times. This usually isn’t an accident, though it’s rarely done with malicious intent. The Valley is a drama that first hit the festival circuit in June of 2017. It follows an immigrant father living in silicon valley who is trying to cope with and understand the suicide of one of his daughters.
Though it was released only shortly after the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, The Valley ends up feeling a bit like a low rent knock off. Stumbling both in its general execution as well as in its attempts to bring a fresh perspective to the subject matter, The Valley struggles to execute anything noteworthy despite appearing to have a fairly sincere desire to accomplish something good.
Writer / Director Saila Kariat appears to come from a place of sincerity as the narrative attempts to prod introspection on the part of suicide survivors (anyone who survives a suicide crisis, including those close to someone who is a victim of suicide). I found the major issues with the narrative came from how the film struggles with exposition. It’s far too heavy-handed in its approach to every scene as the main character Neal, (played by Alyy Khan) attempts to retrace and understand the mental state of his daughter right before she died.
There’s a real attempt to show the way a person goes hyper focus in that situation, but a movie needs to show this information and give the impression of it without being it. The actually feeling the audience gets is boredom or frustration rather than being pulled into the mindset of the character. That isn’t to say that particularly empathetic viewers can’t or won’t be drawn in, but that the film doesn’t help get you there.
One of the things I found most interesting is that the core elements of the story (that the characters are immigrants living in silicon valley) never feels important to either the plot or narrative. There was a lot of potential to draw something unique from these characters in this setting, but The Valley really fails to do anything interesting with either. Allowing these distinctive elements to go to waste is a great lost opportunity. Valuable character development and insight could have been brought out of the unique identity of the characters.
Additionally, the tone of the writing also fails to strike a tone that feels natural, with fairly banal events feeling charged and overdramatic. This is exacerbated by the quality of acting in the film. It’s difficult to say whether the actors themselves were incapable of delivering on the sentiment needed to keep the emotional tone in line with the characters, or whether the director was unable to either elicit such performances or capture them either on set or in the edit, but the performances don’t contribute to the film.
The Valley Overall 2/5
Sadly, though The Valley appears to have been made from a sincere desire to discuss suicide and promote introspective awareness of suicide survivors, it lacks enough quality to not recommend over its contemporaries. By wasting its story elements, delivering an uneven plot, and cast with actors who aren’t able to support the material, The Valley is a relatively forgettable experience. Those who love this type of storytelling may get something here, but anyone else would be better off giving The Valley a pass.