The past is a villainous ghost haunting the living in October Country, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s intensely raw, empathetic non-fiction portrait of the Mosher clan, whose lives in rural upstate Mohawk Valley, New York have been, and continue to be, irretrievably affected by familial history. For the Moshers, what’s come before lives on today: a grandfather scarred by wartime service and alienated from his “witch” sister; a mother who had a child too young with an abusive husband, and whose grown daughter is following that exact same path; a foster son incapable of mending his larcenous ways; and a young girl and infant daughter both mired in an environment of destructive dysfunction. With regards to her abortion, single mother Danael states, “I never wanted to do something like that, and then I did,” a statement that piercingly speaks to the family’s cyclical patterns of unwise behavior, which has been passed down from generation to generation, parent to child, and community ancestors to youngsters. Palmieri and Mosher don’t lay out a chronological timeline or fixate on any one Mosher crisis (like Danael’s abusive husbands and custody battle, or a foster son’s incarcerations), instead depicting their subjects’ tumultuous present with a dreamy lyricism that ably conveys the sense – explicitly articulated at film’s conclusion – that the Moshers are, despite some members’ claims to the contrary, plagued by figurative specters. In the directors’ hands, the sight of a boy backflipping, of fireworks bursting in the night sky (their lights mutating into kaleidoscopic pixels), and of Halloween trick-or-treating, all take on subtle symbolic weight. Expressionistic aesthetics enhance October Country’s sober consideration of people in thrall to the lessons and hardships of the past, which – as in home movie footage of a grandfather hugging his daughter, their present bliss unsullied by the pain and turmoil to come – proves nothing short of heartbreaking.