‘City of Salt’ Is A Powerful Story, But Held Back By Horrific Acting

Zepstone Media

City of Salt centers on Theo Doran (Lauren Holdt, credited as Lauren Catherine), a popular high school student who is dealing with great deal of inner turmoil. She is coming to terms with her sexuality and gender identity, and how that jives with her very religious community. Her father, William “Will” Doran (Jake Ulasich), is a Republican senatorial candidate — which further complicates things. After a particularly brutal heart-to-heart with Will, Theo disappears.

Filmed in and around Salt Lake City, City of Salt features appearances from local political figures like former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and former Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis. It has been the recipient of multiple accolades, including Best Picture (Budget Under 50k) at the Utah Film Festival & Awards. City of Salt is available for viewing on Amazon Prime.

There are some things I really appreciated about the film, in particular the subject matter. The story of a gay Mormon trying to fit into their parochial, image-obsessed community is a powerful one that will resonate with many. A number of prominent issues in Utah culture (and elsewhere in the world) are featured, including suicide, sexual violence, depression, prescription drug abuse, and treatment of LGBTQ individuals by their respective faith communities. Trying to bring more awareness to these issues is admirable and in that regard this film is a great contribution on the filmmaker’s part.

The cinematography and music were both exceptional, although I could have done with fewer location shots of the Salt Lake Valley. Seemed a tad excessive. Also, the constant weaving back and forth from past to present really made for a jumbled and rather labored screenplay. Now obviously flashbacks can play an important role in a film (take Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood for instance, very well done), but in this case it just felt off.

Aside from Holdt’s performance and a couple key scenes toward the end, the acting was dreadfully overblown. Bad community theater on steroids. The cast was trying way too hard with this one. All things considered, though, the film quality is remarkably good considering the budget was a meager $15,000.

I give City of Salt two and a half out of five stars.

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