I’ve seen two Wenders before this, Wings of Desire, which I absolutely loved, and Paris, Texas which I definitely need to see again. Don’t Come Knocking rests somewhere between the two. The constant between all three lies in the visual splendor each frame holds; the colors, composition, and blocking are all first rate, obviously in the hands of visual master. Surprisingly, the tone of Don’t Come Knocking differs greatly from the other two, creating a sometimes hypnotic effect. The film is playful, far, far away from the pretentious Wenders of Paris, Texas.
Sam Shepard stars as Howard Spence an aged Western movie star who decides to go AWOL in the middle of shooting a movie. We learn that Howard has lived a life of women, gambling, and sex. He’s completely lost, and the first place he goes to is his mother whom he hasn’t seen in thirty years. This sets off a series of events that will lead Howard back to a small town he once filmed a movie in search of a child he never knew he had. This sounds like a basic cinematic premise, but Wenders stages each scene with such clarity and focus on the characters that the cliched moments don’t ruin the somber but hopeful mood.
The film asks the question, if you survey the past closely enough, will you be able to remember why certain moments and people have impacted your life. While some relationships are tarnished and too far gone to recoupe, maybe there are a few with some glimmers of light still burning. And in the end, instead of whilting away with the fading western sunset under the guise of misused masculinity, it should be a rewarding experience trying to remember some tenderness in the first place. Maybe it will lead to some sort of salvation, however undeserved.