Peaks and Valleys Film Review

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Michael Burns’ Peaks and Valleys: A Character Study Amidst Shocking Beginnings and Frustrating Ends

Peaks and Valleys, directed by Michael Burns, takes a unique approach to storytelling with its intriguing character study set against a backdrop of astonishment and disappointment. The film grabs the viewer’s attention right from the start, with an unsettling opening scene featuring the graphic preparation of a rabbit carcass followed by the sight of a young woman being tossed out of a plane. While initially jarring, these scenes seamlessly merge with the rest of the narrative, leaving a lasting impact on reflection.

Isolated in the Alaskan Wilderness: Jack’s Encounter with Trauma

The story revolves around Jack (played by Kevin T. Bennett), a man who has chosen a secluded cabin in the depths of the Alaskan wilderness as his sanctuary. However, his peaceful existence is abruptly disrupted when an unexpected aircraft flies overhead, dropping a plastic-wrapped body into a nearby lake. Jack rushes to the scene and discovers a traumatised young woman named Bailey (portrayed by Kitty Mahoney), who is battling addiction and grappling with the aftermath of her harrowing experiences.

A Cinematic Exploration of the Protagonists’ Dynamic

Peaks and Valleys predominantly focuses on the developing relationship between Jack and Bailey, creating a captivating two-hander. The film spends much of its time showcasing their interactions within the confines of the cabin, as they oscillate between friction and solace in each other’s presence. Notably, the narrative sidelines individual circumstances, opting for a reluctant camaraderie and shared existence, while keeping side plots deliberately vague. This singular focus allows for a subtle character study, though some viewers may yearn for a deeper examination of the characters’ internal struggles.

Burns’ cinematographer, Bryan Pentecostes, skillfully captures the untouched ruggedness of the Alaskan landscape, showcasing its unforgiving harshness and breathtaking beauty through stunning visuals. While the film’s deliberate ambiguity in camera work may contribute to moments of narrative frustration, the mesmerizing scenery of Alaska compensates for any minor shortcomings, enhancing immersion in the story.

From Antagonism to Rapport: The Thawing Relationship

As winter grips their secluded realm, Jack and Bailey’s relationship gradually evolves and warms. Jack’s initial brusqueness and Bailey’s stubbornness gradually melt away as they form an unlikely but endearing duo that becomes the heart of the film. The performances may occasionally appear stilted, but this awkwardness only adds to the film’s authenticity and naturalistic approach.

Peaks and Valleys is an independent Alaskan film that thrives on its contained and intimate setting. While addressing some of the lingering narrative issues could have elevated the film’s impact, the heartwarming transformation and interaction between Jack and Bailey ultimately outweigh any initial missteps. The film personalizes the journey of its protagonists, leaving viewers with an overall enjoyable experience and a newfound appreciation for the allure of Alaska.


In conclusion, Michael Burns’ Peaks and Valleys masterfully combines bursts of perplexity with an empathetic exploration of its characters. The film invites audiences to witness the captivating dynamic between Jack and Bailey in the isolated Alaskan wilderness. With stunning cinematography showcasing the rugged beauty of the landscape and an intimate focus on the protagonists’ evolving relationship, Peaks and Valleys delivers a unique and moving cinematic experience.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Where can I watch Peaks and Valleys?

Peaks and Valleys is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. You can enjoy this independent Alaskan film from the comfort of your own home.

2. Is Peaks and Valleys a character-driven film?

Absolutely! Peaks and Valleys delves into the intricate character development of Jack and Bailey, highlighting their evolving relationship and personal growth throughout the narrative.

3. How does the Alaskan wilderness contribute to the film?

The untouched ruggedness of the Alaskan landscape serves as both a backdrop and a character in Peaks and Valleys. Through stunning visuals, viewers are immersed in the harsh yet breathtaking beauty of the environment, further enhancing the film’s impact.

4. Are there any standout performances in the film?

While some moments may feel slightly stilted, the performances of Kevin T. Bennett and Kitty Mahoney as Jack and Bailey bring authenticity and naturalness to their respective roles. Their chemistry and character development form the heart of the film.

5. Does Peaks and Valleys leave a lasting impression?

Absolutely! Peaks and Valleys may have a slow start and a somewhat predictable ending, but it is in the nuanced exploration of its characters and their relationship that the film truly shines. The journey of Jack and Bailey lingers in the minds of viewers, leaving a lasting emotional impact.