Nature, friendship, Bigfoot mix well in ‘Letters’ 

A loopily fitting entertainment option on this Earth Day weekend, “Letters From the Big Man” brings Bigfoot to the art house, wrapping its hairy title character inside an unhurriedly paced into-the-wild story filled with contemplatively presented conservation and big- picture themes.

Don’t expect too much from the movie. Low on emotional voltage, it doesn’t qualify as the oddball jewel that its serio-whimsical material, written and directed by Christopher Munch, has you wishing for.

But unlike numerous “indies” that amount to little more than Hollywood formula in low-budget packaging, it is unpredictable and original.

Munch, whose films include “The Hours and Times,” his speculative take on a John Lennon-Brian Epstein Barcelona visit, takes his imagination into magical-realist terrain while remaining plugged into earthly concerns in this Oregon-set tale.

His protagonist is Sarah (Lily Rabe), a solitude-seeking hydrologist and artist. Having recently left a man, Sarah drives into the woods for a water-surveying gig early on.

After visiting her friend Penny (Fiona Dourif), Sarah kayaks to a fire-ravaged area and senses somebody is watching her. At first, she thinks that Sean (Jason Butler Harner), a hiker and environmentalist she encounters, is the stalker.

It turns out that a sasquatch (Isaac C. Singleton Jr.), presented by Munch as a hair-covered giant with melancholy eyes and possibly magical powers, is watching her.

The sasquatch soon reveals himself to Sarah and leaves objects, made from sticks and stones, for her. A mutual curiosity and quiet friendship result and inspire Sarah’s future.

There’s not much plot, and developments that do arise – including a government plan to kidnap the giant and experiment on him — are often silly or sketchy.

Sarah’s character, too, could use enhancement. By hardly letting us get to know Sarah deep down, Munch undermines her dramatic potential.

Yet at the same time, the movie isn’t a tedious take on “Beauty and the Beast” or “Little Red Riding Hood,” and it doesn’t demean its heroine with love-triangle stupidity.

Munch is on a winning track with this mix of environmental drama, folkloric fantasy and personal journey. The film is an intriguing, sometimes affecting and unique exploration of the power and vastness of nature, the wonders it holds and our responsibility to preserve it. It can also be delectably funny.

Also warranting mention: cinematographer Rob Sweeney, who does gorgeous things with the Oregon scenery, and makeup artist Lee Romaire, who makes Bigfoot look (dare we say it?) authentic.

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Anita Katz

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