West Michigan

“It looks dirty, but it’s natural.” Those are the words uttered with a sense of relief by the central character in the closing scene of West Michigan. Hannah (Chloe Ray Warmoth, TV’s Fuller House) is not only speaking of the copper-tinged water of the Tahquamenon River that snakes its way through the titular state on its way to Lake Superior, she’s also expressing her realization that our winding path through life sometimes gets messy.

"the genuineness of the human interactions and a director who knows when to stay out of the way makes this adventure a pure joy to watch"

That’s the theme of actor/writer/director Riley Warmoth’s film that acts not only as a loving tribute to the filmmaker’s home state, but also as an intimate examination of the complexities of family and human relationships. And who would know better the complexities of a brother sister relationship than the sibling filmmaking team of Chloe and Riley Warmoth whose film tells the story of a brother and sister who travel up the West coast of Michigan to visit their dying grandfather?

As expected, both have issues to work through, but seventeen-year-old Hannah is dealing with more than the typical teenager hardship. She’s struggling with lingering bouts of depression, and the recent split from her boyfriend, while Charlie is left with trying to pick up Hannah’s pieces while also allowing her the space a typical teenager needs. Charlie hopes the trip upstate will do the two some good.

Dripping with indie sensibilities, including perfectly framed two-shots, mumblecore dialogue, and protracted establishing shots of popular Michigan roadside sights, West Michigan is one of those films where nothing really happens. You think you know where this thing is going – and for the most part you do, but when all is said and done, you really have no idea. Heartbreak, shock, relief, hope, and joy are all on tap as this lazy little tale meanders through the side roads and trail heads of all the things that make each us who we are.West Michigan

Much of the enjoyment of watching this coming-of-age story unfold comes from the charm and chemistry on display by the leads as we watch the ups and downs of their relationship play out. Chloe and Riley are absolutely believable as siblings and the result is our total buy in to everything they are selling. Sure, some of the consequences are a bit contrived, and the dialogue occasionally feels forced, but the genuineness of the human interactions and a director who knows when to stay out of the way makes this adventure a pure joy to watch. That's one of the things I love about pure Indie films: They are never over-produced and always feel pure and unadulterated. And West Michigan certainly fits that bill.

Somewhere along the way, their car breaks down on the side of the road leaving Hannah and Charlie to spend a couple of days camping while the car is being repaired. During the side trip a lot is revealed and we actually see the two growing closer. But not close enough that Charlie can feel comfortable leaving Hannah by herself.

Also starring Seth Lee, Sydney Agudong, and Berkley Bragg as a trio of campers Hannah befriends along the way, West Michigan is a delightful little romp through the trials and tribulations of sibling-hood and the ever-confusing journey of trying to find one’s place in this world. Never too heavy, and never claiming to have all the answers, West Michigan is deserving of your time. Upon first glance, it may look a little dirty, but it’s natural.

4/5 stars

Film Details

West Michigan

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
76 mins
: Riley Marmoth
Riley Marmoth
Seth Lee, Chloe Ray Warmoth, Riley Warmoth
: Drama

Memorable Movie Quote: "It looks dirty, but it’s natural."
Two Other Trees
Official Site: https://www.westmichiganmovie.com/
Release Date:
April 13, 2021
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: Hannah is a seventeen-year-old girl who struggles to find her place in the world. Around the time that she gives up all hope of fitting in, her grandfather falls ill. She and her brother, Charlie, drive up the coast of West Michigan in order to visit him on his deathbed. However, their journey north takes a turn after their car breaks down in rural Michigan, and Hannah’s search for meaning grows more crucial than ever.


West Michigan