It would be nearly impossible to not admire the ambitious nature of writer/director Deborah Richards's feature debut Move Me No Mountain, a powerful drama centered around Jenna Anderson (Cat Lellie), a successful real estate agent whose life implodes following the violent death of her daughter. Unable to cope with the guilt and the loss, Jenna becomes disengaged from daily life leading to her leaving society behind to live on the streets of Las Vegas.
Unsurprisingly, Jenna struggles to survive in this new environment where every choice can be an unsafe one and falling asleep in the wrong spot can be fatal. There's a glimmer of hope when she encounters Lizbeth (Layla Campbell, the film's highlight), a young girl whose homelessness has led to her partnering up with a volatile maternal type whose unpredictability at least provides her moments of safety. She also encounters Nic Lionheart (Nicholas Roylance), whose story gives the film a needed layer of emotional resonance that Roylance brings nicely to life. As one would expect, Move Me No Mountain has moments of high drama that will ultimately lead to cathartic, if not entirely convincing, resolutions. Move Me No Mountain is a film about second chances and empathy in a world that often seems to discourage it.
Originally from England and now living in Las Vegas, Richards is no doubt a visionary filmmaker and there's little denying the importance of Move Me No Mountain. A former bartending world champion, a four-time regional Emmy® winner, 2022 Nevada Woman Filmmaker of the Year, and all-around passionate advocate for the arts, Richards has called Move Me No Mountain "a labour of love to my adopted home, Las Vegas, as never before seen on film."
Therein, unfortunately, lies part of the problem. Move Me No Mountain tackles complex issues, though largely skims the surface of them. There's no doubt that Move Me No Mountain is well-intended. It's just not particularly well informed despite the admirable involvement of such organizations as Shine a Light Foundation and Las Vegas Rescue Mission. At times, Move Me No Mountain plays out like a book report on film that captures important highlights but lacks the depth that would really draw us in.
Cat Lellie certainly gives it a solid go as Jenna, though she struggles to plummet the depths of her despair saddled with dialogue that never quite registers as true. Jenna feels like an amalgam of the homeless population, or "unhoused" if we're being politically correct, and even her most dramatic moments ring hollow. Lellie's convincing enough, however, that I'd love to see other work in the future.
As noted, Layla Campbell is an absolute highlight in the film wearing a tapestry of childlike wonder and wounded human being. Lizbeth is a difficult role and Campbell gives an engaging, thoughtful performance.
Nicholas Roylance is also given moments to shine as Nick and his presence gives the film true moments of emotional resonance.
While Campbell is a highlight among the ensemble, it's Richards's own lensing for the film that particularly excels within the film's production. Filmed largely in Las Vegas, Richards beautifully captures the darker and less hopeful side of Vegas seldom seen.
Picked up by Indie Rights and now available via streaming, including for rent or purchase via Amazon Prime Video, Move Me No Mountain is a compassionate motion picture that wears its heart and purpose on its cinematic sleeve. As someone who's been homeless twice in my own life, both times due to medical bills, I appreciate Richards's fierce devotion to telling this story even if I don't ultimately resonate with the final product. Already in production on her next feature, Shaken & Stirred: The Story of Flair Bartending, Richards is an up-and-comer and it'll be interesting to watch her work over the next few years.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic