Movie Review – "The Big Lonely" – Surviving in Isolation
“The Big Lonely” is a captivating film telling the story of Michael Nelms, a persecuted man beaten down by an uncaring bureaucracy and left penniless to live on the streets. Having been a successful car dealer, a real estate broker and the victim of several bad marriages, retreating to a remote forest hideout seems a logical choice. Living under a bridge as a homeless person has no appeal for this man.
As he talks into the camera we discover he has built this small cabin on federal land and justifies his right to be there by calling it a mining claim, a bogus one he confesses. One of his daily tasks is to collect water from a nearby stream. The winter has been harsh and he has to chip through a foot of ice. Leading the way is his dog Tic, a mix of wolf and Malamute. Food is a constant need in this wilderness and obtaining fresh meat is a demanding challenge. In the winter, elk and deer go to lower elevations where food is more plentiful and the snow is not so deep. Snow pack levels have reached as high as ten feet in past years
As such, meat sources are limited to rabbits, coyotes, and rats. Dressing out of such animals and cooking them is a major part of the film. Michael shares his fixings with his dog Tic and their relationship is one of equal partners in their quest to survive.
However, the survival issues are not what make this film unique, it’s the positive attitude of the participants, both Michael and his dog, Tic. They accept the hardships as a part of life and work together to overcome them. When a bear attacks Michael and pins him on the ground, he stabs the animal in the windpipe. He describes this ordeal in detail, down to the whizzing sounds as the bear gasps for air. It’s a horrendous moment in his life and he displays the resulting scars with some trepidation. While the bear meat did get them through another winter, the attack left him with repeated nightmares. Michael recounts, “Dreams are where you take you mind. Nightmares are where your mind takes you.”
It’s philosophies like these that give weight to this film, that this man has learned from his time in the wilderness, and openly shares his thoughts with us. He talks about dying and wanting his body to replenish the land that fed him for so many years. With supplies running low in the midst to winter, the two journey some fifty-miles to restock. Michael sets up camp outside the town and finds various jobs to buy supplies that will get them through the next winter.
You may be asking how could he videotape this much footage without an electrical source to recharge the camera batteries. While not covered in the film I did notice a couple of solar power devices mounted on a tree, which likely allowed for the battery recharging.
The film is a stunning self-shot account as we eavesdrop on a man finding peace and understanding in the Oregon wilderness. It is one man’s inspiring story of resilience and the durability of the human spirit. A heartwarming film, “The Big Lonely” imparts prophetic wisdom about the sins of the past and hopes for the future..
CREDITS: Cast: Michael Nelms; Director – David Manougian; Producer – Troy Gamble & David Kamens; Executive Producer – David Monougian; Editor – Kerribeth Elliot Camera Setup & Consulting – J.P. Morgan; Camera & Sound – Michael Nelms; Composer & Performer of Original Music- Robin Zimmermann; Sound Editor – Reed Harvey; On-line Editor – William Schultz; A Juicebox Production Presentation; Unrated; 82 Minutes.