The Lonesome Trail follows Father Carson (Peter Wray), an upstanding man of the cloth who enters the town of Red Springs with an open heart and an idealistic vision. He immediately sets out to change the largely white settler community by welcoming in Black and Latino families and speaking out against the local land baron, Mike McCray (Donald Imm). Because he’s a man of Christ and the women love him, McCray doesn’t feel comfortable making any overtly violent moves … until Carson starts to woo the lovely Ms. Turner (Kelly Schwartz), the bookworm belle of the town. What starts as a small power struggle becomes a cross-generational story filled with blood, heartbreak and faith.
The story of Lonesome Trail fits snugly into the Western mold. The script (by director Arlette Thomas-Fletcher) does its job well enough, with characters spouting words of wisdom and pontificating about applicable biblical verses when the going gets tough. This isn’t a major motion picture. It’s a low-budget, the-best-they-could take on an archetypical genre story.
Everyone tries their best; unfortunately, Lonesome Trail doesn’t have enough going for it to overcome its nearly two-hour runtime. The performers do an adequate job, but the world around them is, well, cheap. Shooting on location is undoubtedly expensive and impossible for this level of film. I get that. But from the start, backgrounds are flat, sets are sterling clean, clothing is distinctly contemporary. Nighttime scenes have a frustrating fuzz around the characters’ faces caused by the light source. There are a lot of mistakes that were no doubt known to the production crew and too costly to fix, but they’re still a major distraction that makes you wonder what, precisely, you’re getting out of the story.
A majority of the film consists of characters standing around these poorly lit backdrops talking about the plot, debating their next course of action. At nearly two hours, it gets very old, very quickly.
Thomas-Fletcher’s plot does gain a little steam when the era shifts to an older, partially disabled Carson and his two sons, who feel differently about their father’s holy duties. Jonah (Colin McHugh) even works for Mr. McCray, who still wants that pesky preacher away from his town. It has its Cain and Abel biblical allegory, at least to start, but unfortunately, that’s just not the direction the story takes. At its heart, this is a feel-good story, but nothing about watching it made me feel anything at all.