'All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt' Review: Soulful Debut Contemplates the Human Connection to Nature

Nestled deep in the first half of "All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt," once we have acclimated to its sensuous audiovisual idioms, is an encounter between former lovers Mack

(Charleen McClure) and Wood (Reginald Helms Jr.), no longer sharing a mutual path. Few words escape their lips, but their hands hold onto one another with a loving desperation, as

if hoping that through a long embrace everything unsaid could, by osmosis, seep into their bodies. Their kinetic exchange — with fingers clasped tightly that communicate their

unwillingness to let go — sits in nearly silent contemplation.   Elsewhere in writer-director Raven Jackson's debut feature, however, the perpetual cacophony of nature in

the rural South scores the rich imagery like a tireless orchestra that ties everything we witness back to the land. The sounds of torrential rain drenching everything in its way,

of crickets and frogs serenading the moon, all intermingle in communion with each other and the human beings that share their space. Unburdened by linear chronology, the

collection of vignettes that comprise "All Dirt Roads" map the story of Mackenzie, or Mac, a Black woman growing up in Mississippi in the 1970s. In one instant, we inhabit her

childhood while she innocently learns to kiss with her hand, and in the next, we see adolescent Mac explaining she doesn't know how to swim. With the same ease, we later land in

her toddler days, as she sleeps in the arms of her mother (Sheila Atim).