There is a numbness and emptiness to the acting in the early go of this film and rightfully so. Trying to overcome the tragedy of their lost newborn child, a young couple goes away to a small Bahamian island where Nadine (the beautiful grieving young wife played by Dree Hemingway, model turned actress and granddaughter of Ernest) spent her youth. Her husband, Lewis (Keith Stanfield, also known to many as Lakeith Stanfield, recently of Get Out and TV’s Atlanta fame), tries desperately to be there for her, only to have her push him away for fear of having to discuss the stillborn child or what comes next when they return to the “real world”.
When the film opens, I found myself questioning why the decision was made to film in black and white, but as the emotions (and mostly failing attempts to masks emotions) take center stage, the decision feels not only appropriate, but necessary. In fact, it’s hard to think of this film filmed in any other way. With that in mind, it’s important also to note just how powerful the way in which Live Cargo was filmed is. Not only because it’s black and white, but also the framing of the shots, the close ups of the faces of the characters as they are deep in thought and/or emotions.
As the plot begins to unfold, Nadine continues to try to push her pain down deeper inside her and Lewis feels more blocked out and pushed away. As their island getaway’s serenity is becoming more and more fake, it is revealed that the serenity of the island itself is just as fake. There is a great amount or turmoil hidden under the surface and a dark under belly of human trafficking. Interestingly, there are multiple layers of trafficking, some of which is meant to serve a positive purpose of finding poor children families to raise them, but underneath is something far more nefarious. There is much darkness below the sunny island exterior.
Nothing is what it seems in this world. There is always darkness in the light. This is the lesson of Live Cargo. What the film lacks in plot development, it makes up for in tone and emotions. This is truly a masterwork, especially when considering it’s the directorial debut of Logan Sandler. There are big things in this kid’s future if this is any indication. This is a film that will stick with you, period.