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Tracing Cowboys 

A trip to Mexico on Dia de los Muertos

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For a film that concludes with a convergence of two souls in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, it’s ironic that its real-life star died in a car accident on the final day of shooting.

The star, Sacha Grunpeter, plays lovesick Ethan, who has moved to America from Britain to pursue a career in country music.

Ethan loves cowboys and country music almost to the point of obsession. Sadly, his meek countenance and mousy vocals prevent him from ever being anything like John Wayne.

While his attempts to lasso the cowboy mystique fall short, he manages to capture the attention of an amorous woman named Debbie, who happens to have the same name as the female character in The Searchers, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. In The Searchers, Wayne is on an epic quest to find his beloved Debbie.

Ethan’s Debbie has her own battles to overcome, and one of them is an inability to stick around anyplace for very long.

In the opening of the film, Debbie explains that she’s getting away versus going someplace. She heads to California and then south to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

Ethan and Debbie’s love story is told through actions, not words. Written by Grunpeter and the film’s director Jason Wulfsohn, it’s an impressionistic film that some may consider too thoughtful and slow, while others may see it as touching and thought-provoking.

The film’s slow progression leads us on a road trip through beautiful country, until Ethan is sent a package containing photos that Debbie took months prior while on her way to Mexico. Debbie wants Ethan to come and find her.

The film ends in a twist as tragically ironic as Grunpeter’s life did on the last day of filming. While Ethan finally becomes a cowboy, the real-life Grunpeter never got to see people’s reaction to his film. And while Ethan does find what he is searching for, it’s only for a brief moment at the Day of the Dead, and only after his epic journey ends in discovering that Debbie has undergone her own tragedy.

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