Greetings again from the darkness. Each of us deals with grief in our own way, and often it’s even more challenging to help a grieving loved one. Loss and grief are at the core of writer-director Rachel Tunnard’s feature length film developed from her award winning short, EMOTIONAL FUSEBOX (2014).
When first we meet Anna, she is creating a space-oriented home video using aluminum foil and her thumbs. Yes, Anna is an adult – mere days from her 30th birthday. She’s not the type to live in her mom’s basement … no, instead she lives in the cluttered garden shed in her mom’s backyard. The play on words for the shed clues us in to Anna’s quirky personality (as if the foil spaceship and thumb faces hadn’t already done so). The Anna we see currently has no place for humor in her life.
Anna is struggling with the grief associated with losing her twin brother – a brother she was extremely close to. She’s challenged daily by the fine line between sorrow and depression, and is regularly late to her job at an outdoor camp for kids. Her morning routine includes drying her clothes in the microwave and bickering with her mother (Lorraine Ashbourne) over finding a boyfriend and new place to live. Mom has demanded Anna move out of the shed by her birthday.
Others in Anna’s life include her grandmother (Eileen Davies), Anna’s close friend Fiona (Rachael Deering), and local real estate agent Brendan (Brett Goldstein) who may or may not be on the spectrum, is constantly refuting assumptions that he is gay, and undoubtedly has an unrequited crush on Anna. Each of these folks tries in their own way to pull Anna from her funk and get her back to living. Surprisingly, the turn occurs when she is forced to look after a neighbor boy named Clint when his mother gets rushed to the hospital. Clint is an odd kid who wears cowboy attire and proclaims his desire to be like Anna … and they are more similar than she would care to admit initially.
Jodie Whitaker plays Anna and newcomer Ozzy Myers is Clint. Young Mr. Myers excels in his role, never going over-the-top with his offbeat tendencies. Ms. Whitaker (“Doctor Who”) first charmed us on screen with her role in VENUS (2006) and she proves yet again what an accomplished actress she is … likable and relatable. Here she turns an arrested development 30 year old hermit into someone we pull for. The film is filled with awkward interactions, each grounded in reality.
Of course, there is really nothing cute or charming about a 30 year old who hasn’t yet grown up, but slack and understanding is due here because of the grief. And it’s difficult to name another film character who could count mole hills daily and make it seem natural. Just remember that when a kid says they want to be like you, take it seriously – even if it’s because you are sad and lonely. Ms. Tunnard’s film is a bittersweet comedy that’s not too bitter, not too sweet, and not overly funny. It’s simply a fine little indie movie with a terrific performance from a talented actress.