Set in rural Hale County, Alabama, a place of verdant beauty but unprecedented destitution, ALL HALE tells a visually striking tale of how surprising it is to discover one’s identity through another’s eyes. We follow Alice (Mary Katherine Rowe), a bold and exotic looking architecture student, while she participates in her university’s design-build program utilizing found and donated materials. Alice is assigned to build unique sustainable home for a local black family and their story quickly captures her attention as she gains trust into their lives.
The family, mother Charlotte and daughter Ruth, was in recent years rocked by the death of the father, Patterson, who was a manager at the county-dominating plantation called Morgan Agriculture. After Patterson’s death, his brother Patrice (Rob Morgan) swooped in to take care of his family, although Patrice began a downward spiral as plantation mechanization caused widespread permanent layoffs throughout the county. Left bruised and prideless, Patrice qualifies his family for the university program and begins construction on a new home with Alice. As Alice gets to know Patrice’s family she develops a bond with the daughter Ruth, a rotund and nerdy middle schooler, and discovers that Ruth is in desperate need of solid female guidance. Charlotte, her mother, is consistently unavailable ever since she became the sole breadwinner in the family.
In her private time, she falls for Mason, the only other university educated person in town who is not part of her program. She discovers that he is in fact locally raised and is the son of the owner of Morgan Agriculture, the man who caused the county’s joblessness. While Alice fiercely despises the figure that Mason’s father is in the community, she finds that Mason is entirely different. He is thoughtful, kind, loving, and intelligent, not to mention he serves as Alice’s passport to all of the local inner-workings and gossip.
Alice counsels Ruth through her journey of self discovery in the world of lockers and mean girls, where we find that Ruth has affections for her female classmate Nika and is constantly being dogged for it by bully Sheila LaRue. While Alice monitors Ruth’s social development, Patrice begins to feel that his space as a man has become violated by this seemingly noble outside source. He expresses his distrust for Alice as they together to complete his university funded house project, and continues to hate on himself by drowning his sorrows in booze and women. Ultimately, Mason helps Alice to cut through Patrice’s distrust for her and discovers that there is much more to Patterson’s untimely death and the displacement of the county’s plantation workers than shows on the surface. Through facilitating these discoveries, Alice learns deeply about herself and her sense of belonging.
Photos by Vajra Hodges