The Stolen Valley (2022)

Lupe (Briza Covarrubias) is a Mexican-Navajo mechanic who saves every dollar with her mother, Adamina (Paula Miranda), to buy their own sanctuary and home. On the flip side, Maddy (Allee Sutton Hethcoat) is currently homeless, with no money in her pocket and desperate to get back on her feet. We soon learn that Maddy owes money to the wrong kind of people.

After working late at a rodeo, Adamina suddenly falls to the ground and is rushed to the hospital. While Lupe’s mother is in a stable condition and in and out of a coma, there is nothing the hospital can do as she has a brain tumour. There is an experimental treatment available, but it’s priced at approx. $50,000. Given the sudden health change with Lupe’s mother, Lupe’s family decided to share some significant news with her about her father, a father whom she thought was dead. Lupe’s father owns a valley, which is worth a great fortune. In desperation, Lupe heads towards her father, who may be able to afford the treatment. However, getting to the valley won’t be that simple.

When Lupe visits a local Pawnbroker, by a stroke of luck and the case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, Lupe and Maddy’s paths cross each other. Now, they’re both being chased by a group of dangerous people. After conversing and sharing their challenges and goals, Lupe and Maddy agree to team up. Lupe will find her real dad, and if successful, Maddy will gain a sum of money to help her current debt situation. As they journey further and further, Lupe and Maddy only find more challenges and surprises about themselves and their past.

The Stolen Valley is an action film with some dramatic and thriller moments. It is also the directional feature debut of Jesse Edwards, whose past work includes two short films, Life After (2021) and Distance (2020). It should be noted that Jesse also serves as the film’s writer. As a feature-length film debut, there’s no denying that the results are impressive for several reasons.

Visually, I felt this film was commendable for the vast majority of its runtime. It consists of sharp visuals and great locations. However, the only exception was when characters talk in moving vehicles, and the camera work during these scenes is more challenging and shakier. Moments of action (while brief) are shot incredibly well with sharp visuals and creative filming that will impress and entertain viewers.

The leading performances are most pleasing. While Briza Covarrubias as Lupe carries a great range of drama and emotion, Maddy, played by Allee Sutton Hethcoat, delivers some lighter moments. There’s no denying it: actress Hethcoat appears to be having a great time. I loved seeing her character in the film; she elevated it with energy, minor comedy and positivity. Another great standout is the film’s villain, Micah Fitzgerald as Carl. Viewers will readily believe the level of menace, creepiness and danger his character represents. Sadly, side performances are not as powerful, particularly in line delivery, which sometimes lacks emphasis or a touch of realism. Certain plot advancements sometimes can also come down to coincidences, and some significant plot twists are a bit of a stretch to accept as viewers.

Overall, The Stolen Valley is an enjoyable drama with a basic story and some cheesy (but fun) twists and turns. There’s tremendous on-screen chemistry and playfulness from both leads, Briza Covarrubias and Allee Sutton Hethcoat, and the film’s villain, played by Micah Fitzgerald, was well cast. Visually, there are many impressive sequences. There is plenty here that is light-hearted, simple and enjoyable, and as a feature-length debut from Jesse Edwards, it delivers enough that I’m delighted to see what’s in store next.

The Stolen Valley (2022) is Available on Digital from April 17th – Australia & New Zealand*

5.7/10

Rating: 3 out of 5.

3rd April 2024
Written by Peter Walkden

THANK YOU FOR VISITING!

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Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) had the honour and pleasure of chatting with Mark Leonard Winter, director and writer of The Rooster (2023), which is Available in Australian Cinemas from February 22nd. When the body of his oldest friend is found buried in a...

The Rooster (2023)

Dan (Phoenix Raei) is a police officer working within a small community. Life presents many challenges and struggles for Dan, and he finds himself walking around in what feels like a real-life nightmare. Pushing him even further over the edge is the discovery of a...

The Jester (2023)

One evening, a man named John (Matt Servitto) walks around alone in a small community. While walking, it's evident that something, or perhaps someone, is following him from a distance. John also appears to have strange and unexplainable visions of a little girl. The...

Dario Argento Panico (2023)

Introducing a documentary focused on the well-known horror director, writer, producer, actor, and composer Dario Argento. Today, many public figures would say Dario is like a painter or a musician in the film style. Dario's films have always featured fantastic camera...

May December (2023)

Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) is an actress working on her newest film. To prepare for her upcoming leading role, Elizabeth has the opportunity to study the real person she will be portraying, a woman named Gracie (Julianne Moore). It's been over twenty years since...

Birth/Rebirth (2023)

Celie (Judy Reyes) is a single mother who works full-time as a nurse. At the same hospital is Dr. Rose Casper (Marin Ireland), a morgue technician who is working in the field of pathology. Even though they work at the same hospital, Celie and Dr. Rose Casper are...

Interview: Simon Emmett / Welcome to the Darkness (2023)

Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) had the honour and pleasure of chatting with Simon Emmett, director of Welcome to the Darkness (2023), available on Digital from January 24th, thanks to Lightbulb Film Distribution. Have you been a long-term fan of The...

Anatomy of a Fall (2023)

Over the last year, a family of three consisting of Samuel (Samuel Theis), Sandra (Sandra Hüller), and their vision-impaired son, Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), have been living in an isolated location in the mountains. The film opens with Sandra attempting to share a...

Interview: Josh Forbes / Destroy All Neighbors (2024)

Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) enjoyed chatting with Josh Forbes, director of Destroy All Neighbors (2024), Now Available Exclusively on Shudder. How did you become connected with Destroy All Neighbors, and what was the biggest attraction to working on...

Welcome to the Darkness (2023)

It's incredible to think of it now, but in 2002, The Darkness was an unsigned band. By 2004, its key members- Justin Hawkins, his brother Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain and the original drummer Ed Graham- had sold over a million records. But in 2006, something...

The Iron Claw (2023)

Based on a true story set in the early 1980s, The Iron Claw follows the Von Erich brothers and their journey within the world of professional wrestling. Firstly, we are taken back in time to glimpse wrestling icon Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany), delivering a final...

The Jungle Bunch: World Tour (2023)

The Jungle Bunch is a group of animals who, when called upon, will help and save the day. Whether it's another animal in need of urgent help or an area in the jungle that requires their attention, their goal and desire is to help maintain peace and harmony. When one...

The Canterville Ghost (2023)

In the late 1800s, there's a wild storm during the night right at bedtime for Lord Monroe (Bill Lobley), the proud owner of a stunningly large manor house in Canterville Chase, England. However, before going to bed with his teddy bear, Lord Monroe encounters something...

Career Opportunities (1991)

Jim (Frank Whaley) isn't the brightest bloke in the community. He struggles to hold a job, still lives with his parents, continually lies to everyone around him, and has failed to discover his true purpose as an adult. When Jim loses his job at an animal shelter, his...

Destroy All Neighbors (2024)

William Brown (Jonah Ray) is a passionate rock musician and composer with one major issue: he's unable to create the perfect song to take him further. When William isn't working on his music or spending time with his partner, he works at a recording studio as an...

The Holdovers (2023)

Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is a teacher at a prep school located in New England during the 1970s. Paul is a firm, strict, and extremely cranky teacher and is disliked by students and co-workers alike. As school breaks up for another year over Christmas, many students...

Stargate (1994)

In 1928 Giza, Egypt, an incredible, large artifact is discovered by a group of archaeologists. We then jump to the present day and are introduced to Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader), an archaeologist knowledgeable about ancient Egypt, including translating the...

The Man in Half Moon Street (1945)

Who was Julian Karell, and where did he come from? What manner of man was he? For some, he was a fine, incredibly courageous scientist who lost track of truth. Another man claims that Karell was a cold-blooded murderer and a remarkable criminal. Lastly, we hear from a...

Kane (2023)

The film opens with a game of chess being played by two mysterious men and a voiceover letting us know who they are: Abe (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) and Frankie (Nathan Phillips). Abe is an old-school gangster who has dissociative identity disorder, meaning there are...

Top Rated Films of 2023

You can agree that 2023 was another outstanding year for cinema. Below is a list of my favourites and, once again, my top ten titles. Trust me when I say it: it was a challenge to narrow it down to number one. On behalf of my family and myself, I would like to take...

Anyone But You (2023)

It all begins when Bea (Sydney Sweeney) rushes into a local cafe, hoping to use the toilet. The cafe staff are not helpful, but Bea is rescued by a nearby knight in shining armour, Ben (Glen Powell). Regardless of a few funny and awkward moments between Bea and Ben,...

Ferrari (2023)

Set in 1957, Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) is an ex-race car driver and the current owner of a well-known Italian car company. However, Ferrari is currently in hot water due to the lack of sales. Enzo's wife, Laura (Penélope Cruz), also works with him as a business...

Dream Scenario (2023)

Paul (Nicolas Cage) is a biology professor with a wife and two teenage daughters. There are multiple challenges for Paul, including trying to fulfil his long-term dreams of writing and publishing a book. Many around Paul live a life of success and wealth, but for...

The Shift (2023)

While sitting at a bar and drinking alone, Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha) meets his true love, Molly (Elizabeth Tabish). Instantly, Kevin is smitten by her to the point he is willing to make significant changes in his life, such as taking a deeper step into church and...

The Boys in the Boat (2023)

In the 1930s, Joe (Callum Turner) is studying to become an engineer at university. Financially, he is struggling to make ends meet as he pays off school fees. Unsuccessful at finding a job, he is sleeping in his car each night. Joe hears of a paying job for the...

Coup de Chance (2023)

When Fanny (Lou de Laâge) walks along a busy street, she soon hears her name being called out from afar. A man approaches her, claiming to know her from high school. At first, Fanny is surprised but soon learns the man is Alain (Niels Schneider). Once upon a time,...

Wonka (2023)

After seven years of living on the ocean, Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) has decided to say farewell to the sea and start afresh in a city over the horizon. Willy Wonka is a skilled magician and chocolate maker with determined dreams of opening a brand-new chocolate...

Merry Little Batman (2023)

It's the Christmas season in Wayne Manor, and the only thing that six-year-old Damian Wayne (Yonas Kibreab) wants is to fight crime with his father, Batman, aka Bruce Wayne (Luke Wilson). On Christmas Eve, Bruce decides to give Damian his present early. Damian eagerly...

Wish (2023)

When he and his family are attacked, Magnifico (Chris Pine) decides to start afresh somewhere safe. Travelling far, far away, Magnifico and his wife find an island where they can begin a new life, welcoming others to join them and live in harmony. In time, a new...