‘Tater Tot & Patton’ is a Beautiful Piece of Quiet Cinema About Healing and Connection

On-screen intergenerational clashes, especially those between millennials and the older generation, are a dime a dozen. In a play for laughs, the two groups clash over texting, social media, money, and avocados. But in Andrew Kightlinger’s new film, Tater Tot & Patton, both generations are portrayed with nuance and care, coming together in an attempt to understand, heal, and grieve. Sure, there is a little bit of cheesy millennial dialogue (“hardcore cringe”) but this is not a film that tries to poke fun at either group. Rather, it shows the individual struggles and strengths that go unnoticed due to assumptions about age and gender.

Tater Tot & Patton takes place on a ranch in South Dakota, run by Erwin (Bates Wilder). He spends his days keeping up the land, caring for cattle, and drinking beer after beer. But his quiet routine is interrupted when his niece, Andie (Jessica Rothe), comes to stay with him from L.A. in lieu of going to rehab. She is the image of a stereotypical spoiled millennial, demanding the wifi password, refusing to eat meat, and groaning at minor inconveniences. But as soon as these character traits are introduced, they are wiped away in the name of giving her more depth. Erwin gets a similar treatment, never seeming like a stereotypical redneck or country boy, but rather a sympathetic character in the throes of grief. As Andie spends more time with her uncle, they each learn more about each other and realize how much they need one another to heal their respective traumas.

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