Woman Walks Ahead ★★

Is a film still considered a “white savior” story if its white protagonist never actually saves anything? In the case of Susanna White’s “Woman Walks Ahead,” it’s certainly not for lack of trying. A listless but lustrously shot biopic about the 19th century New York widow who traveled to North Dakota, painted the Sioux chief Sitting Bull, and then served as an advocate for his tribe as they fought the United States government’s attempts to expropriate their land, the movie almost credits Caroline Weldon as being solely responsible for the Native American resistance to the Dawes Act. Moreover, it also forgives her role in the massacre that followed. On their own, those issues are more frustrating than fatal. As a self-contained story, however, the film suffers enormously from its slippery grasp of history, all of its narrative thrust slipping through the cracks between fact and fiction.