09th Jun2021

‘The Dark Divide’ VOD Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: David Cross, David Koechner, Debra Messing, Gary Farmer, Kimberly Guerrero, Cameron Esposito, Ayanna Berkshire, Olivia Ritchie | Written and Directed by Tom Putnam

Considering Bill Bryson is my favourite author and I love travel and hiking, I really haven’t watched enough movies about hiking journeys. Are there even that many of them? I’m not entirely sure to be honest but when I read about The Dark Divide, which is based on a true story, I knew I had to check it out.

The Dark Divide of the title is what people call Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This is based on the real-life story of renowned butterfly expert Robert Pyle (here played by David Cross) who embarked on a life-changing trek through one of America’s most important unprotected wildlands in the summer of 1995. We discover, in flashbacks, that part of the reason for this journey is the passing of is wife, making it even more important to him. It’s a touching and emotional story with a perfect backdrop.

Maybe watching a guy in his fifties go on a long hike doesn’t sound like the most entertaining thing for many people but it works great for me with The Dark Divide. Not only is there this interesting story but there’s also a beautiful landscape that you get to look at for over an hour and a half. Trees higher than you can imagine, fast flowing rivers and huge lakes, snow-covered mountains and underground caves, it’s all he and shown in it’s full glory. For me at least, somebody who would love to live somewhere like this, it’s a joy to watch. You couldn’t ask for a better or more beautiful place to film and director Tom Putnam does a great job of showing it off.

David Cross is probably best know for his comedy roles and especially as Tobias Funke in Arrested Development. Actually much of the cast are best known for their comedy, and while The Dark Divide does have plenty of laughs, it’s more of a drama adventure of sorts. And Cross plays the more serious role expertly. He conveys all the emotions of the character brilliantly and despite several flaws, is likeable throughout. Robert comes up against people destroying the forest, bears, every kind of weather, some more friendly wildlife – including a great scene with an owl and there’s even a subplot involving Bigfoot!

Occasionally the flashbacks are a bit jarring but never confusing, the whole story is portrayed well. I don’t think you need to be a hiker at all to enjoy the movie but you would perhaps get more from it if you are (based on this movie Robert Pyle was clearly not an experienced hiker!). But if like me you don’t hike enough, you’ll be desperate to get out in the wild after watching it. I imagine it would inspire plenty of people to do the same that never have before too.

If you have ever wondered if a movie can be relaxing I urge you to watch The Dark Divide. I got this amazing chilled enjoyment from watching it and I’m certain it will do the same on repeat viewings. Occasionally I reach out of my repeat horror movie viewings and remember there are films that can make you smile and happy. The Dark Divide is one of them. It’s like a great big warm hug of a movie and one of the most enjoyable of the year so far.

**** 4/5

The Dark Divide is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime now.

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