Helmed by Scott Monahan, with a screenplay by Dakota Loesch, Anchorage sees brothers Jacob (Monahan) and Jon (Loesch) embark on a drug-addled road trip from Florida to Alaska, where they plan to sell a large haul of opioids for (what they hope will be) some serious money. Led by excellent performances from Monahan and Loesch, the duo’s film captures the tenderness of brotherhood, as the pair talk about their dreams, mess around and come to blows while they drive through what seems like an endless California desert, popping pills along the way.
Taking shelter in derelict homes and living on a diet of cigarettes and alcohol, there’s a punk aesthetic to the brothers’ way of life that matches the ultra-low-budget style of filmmaking. The result is a grungy and decaying vision of Americana, which serves as a limbo for the pair’s journey. Despite apparently driving for days, the siblings cannot seem to get out of the desert. Whether the setting is understood as a metaphor for their shared grief over the death of their mother, or a cynical portrayal of modern-day America, the imagery is nevertheless arresting.
However, with virtually no other characters to speak of, it’s the onscreen chemistry between the leads that carries this film forward. Although the brothers demonstrate genuine compassion towards each other (one scene sees Jon lovingly tend to a passed-out Jacob), their menacing tattoos and proficiency for violence are constant reminders of how volatile their situation is. When tensions inevitably start to rise after one too many disagreements, the brothers find themselves on a collision course with tragedy.
As frighteningly good as Monahan and Loesch are together, the filmmakers aren’t quite able to stick the landing. The final burst of violence, though sudden and vicious, doesn’t pack the required punch for the dramatic moment to hit as hard as intended. Likewise, psychedelic dream sequences distract more than what they add to the feature.
Shortcomings aside, Anchorage is a lo-fi, drug-infused road trip through the heart of a decaying America, which shines a spotlight on the love and violence between two brothers.
Anchorage is released in select cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 1st September 2023.
Watch the trailer for Anchorage here: