Review: ‘All Dirt Roads Tase of Salt’ is a sensory journey for art house aficionados

A new piece of cinema from writer/director Raven JacksonAll Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt is very much a cinematic work of art. When it comes to art and cinema, tastes will vary as widely and diversely as there are people on the planet. It can be a situation where one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Some people will connect to certain pieces, whereas others find next to nothing, and vice versa, which is one of the most fascinating things about us as humans. 

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is an art piece

All Dirt Roads Taste of Saltan A24 release,  is slow-moving. It is very soft and gentle, quiet. Extended periods of the film have no dialogue at all. When it comes to visual aesthetics, however, it is very pretty to look at. That being said, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is a film I never really connected with, and although certain cinephiles will absolutely love this piece of art, I just never quite tuned into the wavelength this movie was on. 

The plot is nonlinear, skips around in time a bit, and was almost like one of the lesser accessible Terrence Malick films, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just not my cup of tea. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is very much not a film for general audiences, and even some of the arthouse crowd might find All these Dirt Roads might be just a little too Salty for their Taste.

The story of All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt

[Editor’s note: There are mild spoilers ahead for all All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt.]

The film opens with a close-up shot of a fish in someone’s hands, its scales gently stroked by an index finger. These are two things the film does make a point of repeating throughout its runtime. The first is the close-up camera work. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is a very intimate film, which I will elaborate on later, the second being the film’s fixation on hands. 

We spend minutes upon minutes watching people holding hands, caressing and using their hands for various things, usually delicate ones. The hands throw the fish back into the water, and we see Mack (Kaylee Nicole Johnson) as a child of no more than ten or eleven. She’s fishing with her father and sister Josie (Jayah Henry). As we watch her hands, again, on the fishing reel, as her fingers slowly turn to reel the line in, her father’s hand is also in the shot. We hear his voice say, “Not too fast.” Next, we see Mack’s hands, and she cradles and slowly begins pulling a red rope with a metal fish trap on the end of it. They’ve caught a catfish.

Simplicity in the rumbles of a thunderstorm

Soon, we begin to hear the sounds of a thunderstorm rumbling in the background, which brings an end to this trip. But the camera is left behind to let us watch the slowly moving water swirling around with mud and debris clouding any view of the contents underneath. The shots linger and allow the viewer to soak in the moments, not that any large events are happening, but we are repeatedly left to absorb these moments of simplicity in All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt.

All Dirt Road Taste of Salt still. Image courtesy of A24.
All Dirt Road Taste of Salt still. Image courtesy of A24.


After this, the scene changes, and we get a few shots of one of the fish with some directions from Mack’s mother (Sheila Atim) on how to skin and filet it. We witness the girls riding their bikes around town when they encounter a house engulfed in flames. Local men hurriedly throw buckets of water on the blaze, but their valiant efforts are ineffectual against the fire. fury. Mack and her friends stand transfixed as the flames engulf the interior and flow out of a hole in the roof. 

Viewing Mack’s life through multiple time periods

Then, without warning or onscreen text to alert us, we’re transported into the future and watch mid-teen Mack (Charleen McClure) walking down a path through the woods with some friends and a boy she likes named Wood (Reginald Helms Jr.). The film jumps somewhat sporadically through timelines in Mack’s life, as a young girl, teenager, and finally as an adult. Although we get glimpses of both the infant and aged Mack, the child and adult versions are the two timelines we spend most of our time with. 

Inexplicably we head back into Mack’s youth and watch her mother and father share an intimate moment as If I Were Your Woman by Gladys Knight & The Pips queues up in the background. As they dance, we watch their hands slowly clasp together in affectionate touches as Mack sits on the floor and observes. But as we wind our way back and forth between sequences from the two timelines, these tender moments are quite nice to linger in and enjoy. But the lack of a main narrative or character arcs hurt any sense of story progression or pace that the film might ever have hoped to establish.

All film criticism is subjective

While all film criticism is inherently subjective, I found this very simple film, particularly one I had some difficulty rating mediocre. I greatly appreciate All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt as a piece of art. In other words, I can understand why it’s good artistically, just like I can understand why the Mona Lisa is a valuable piece of art. But if someone gifted me said painting, I’d have no interest in hanging it in my house other than when visitors come over as a talking point and a way to blow their minds. 

All Dirt Road Taste of Salt still. Image courtesy of A24.


I will say I enjoyed the film’s tone overall. As I’ve mentioned, it is very intimate, soft, and gentle, like a warm blanket on a breezy day on a front porch. The pacing of All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt was languid, which, by comparison to the film Perfect Days, was also a very slow-moving film and monotonous to boot, but I was able to tune into and relate with the themes of Days much easier than Roads. But even with its shorter, hour-and-a-half runtime, the pacing of Roads barely crept along, as nothing much happens for large portions of the film, and we’re just allowed to soak in scene after scene of intimate takes. 

The nonlinear nature of the film made understanding it tough

But probably one of my biggest hang-ups with the film is that Jackson’s dialogue, light screenplay, and plot are nonlinear, and there seemed to be no through line. While I’m sure the director of All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt could shed light on the film’s narrative, the non-linear structure, shifting between present, past, and future, left me with numerous gaps and uncertainties regarding its intended message, if it had one.

But again, it was very cinematic. As I mentioned, there are so many beautifully captured and lingering shots, especially those featuring hands, and I enjoyed many of the shot compositions. Undoubtedly, some individuals will watch this film, think of their mothers, and burst into tears. That’s very much the mood it exudes and the type of film it is. Yet, as much as I tried to get on this road, I never could go for the stroll Raven Jackson wanted to take us on entirely.

Final thoughts on All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt

This film is about as arthousy as they come. Cinephiles, critics, and independent film lovers will be among the most inclined to appreciate what Jackson is offering with the movie. But unless you have a particular palette, All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt might just be a film left along the side of the road.

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is now playing in theaters

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is now playing in theaters.  Visit the official website to find out how to buy tickets.

Have you watched Raven Jackson’s poetic debut All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt? What did you think? Join the conversation by leaving a comment or connecting with us on X @MoviesWeTexted.

What to watch next

If you’re in the mood for something from A24, check out Russell Miller’s recent review of their first musical, Dicks: The Musical.