Produced with the help of indie auteur David Gordon Green, director Jeff Nichols' slow Southern tragedy about two tightlipped sets of feuding half-brothers has all the markings of a first film—in all of the best possible ways. Following the death of their estranged father, three brothers (dubbed, in effective negligence, Son, Boy, and Kid) say their final piece at his funeral—sparking a bitter quarrel with the younger, more well-adjusted progeny the father came to raise across town. From there on, it's a classically simple Hatfield-McCoy saga in miniature, with easily escalated tempers and violence.

With its poor Arkansas backdrop, Shotgun Stories is sure to draw easy comparisons to producer Green's work, but the film is far more quiet, forgoing Green's artier affectations for stone-faced simplicity. It's Terrence Malick twice removed: a patient and ordinary narrative unencumbered by self-conscious artiness, yet forged with artful execution. Deliberately modest in its ambitions, Shotgun Stories is full of the sort of winning subtlety that is difficult to assertively replicate beyond a debut film, but which works masterfully just out of the gate.