Review by Jeff Myhre
The premise had promise. Two young women, Iris (Juno Temple) and Catherine (Julia Gardner) choose to spend a summer together in a small New England college town, a “summer of healing” as they agree in the opening moments. As the story develops, we learn the need for healing comes from a car accident – they survived but another young woman did not. Survivor’s guilt follows, and the potential of the film is well-established.
Iris chooses to work in a deli, smoke pot and drink beer, and she winds up sleeping with her older and married thesis adviser, Gerald (Alessandro Nivola). While Temple delivers a fairly solid performance, writer and director Liz W. Garcia crafted a character for her that is two-dimensional and not really very likable. Her romance with Gerald is predictable, as is its ending, when wife Lisette (Maggie Siff, in a performance far better than Nivola’s) finds out by reading a poem her husband wrote about his student. Every cliché is in play here, down to the fact that he teaches English – doesn’t anyone in the anthropology or chemistry department ever cheat on their partner?
Meanwhile, the interesting side of story is Catherine’s. She was at the wheel in the accident, and she tries to address her guilt by sleeping with her dead friend’s brother Billy (Philip Ettinger). They don’t so much make love as make anger, hate and regret when they sleep together. Gardner’s inadequate performance robs this part of the film of any real plausibility or grace.
The film does have some solid moments, especially as Siff cries with rage while Nivola explains his affair as every discovered cheater does right before divorce happens. Mamoudou Athie as Jack, Iris’ roommate, isn’t given much to do but he seems determined to make something of the role. I wish his role were bigger as it might have helped Iris and Catherine feel more sympathetic.
Andreas Burgess’ cinematography is blessed with the natural beauty of rural New England, and he captures the claustrophobic feel of every small college town with aplomb. There are some self-indulgent shots that scream at the audience “this is an indy film, pay attention,” but in general, it’s the best part of the film.
If one gets the sense that this is a bad film, that is not quite accurate. It’s a frustrating film because it isn’t as good as it could have been. It disappoints. The reasons are legion, but it comes back to the same thing – like Iris and Catherine, it doesn’t seem all that interested in living up to its potential.
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