Margo Crane (Kenadi DelaCerna) is a Native American teen living in rural Michigan. She a tough cookie compared to the other girls in their small town. She identifies herself with Annie Oakley who suffered abandonment by her mother and lost her father. And, of course, they share another thing — they are both crack shots. After taking revenge on an uncle who raped her, Margo takes to the river in order to escape the disappointments and violence of her path. She hopes to find her estranged mother.
Once Upon a River is a coming-of-age story based on a gritty bestselling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Like Huckleberry Finn, Margo meets a variety of colorful characters along the river. Some try to take advantage of her, but most treat her well, giving her shelter and good advice. Her odyssey reminds us of two other teens who rely upon the kindness of strangers in Leave No Trace and Yellow Rose.
Throughout, some who are genuinely kind to her and others trying to take advantage of her. In the end, director Haroula Rose keeps our attention focused on Margo's transformation from a silent wild child into confident and caring friend who discovers that she seeks nothing more than a place of safety, security, and love.