|SHADOWS ON THE WALL | REVIEWS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Nikole Beckwith
prd Anthony Brandonisio, Tim Headington, Daniela Taplin Lundberg
with Patti Harrison, Ed Helms, Tig Notaro, Julio Torres, Nora Dunn, Fred Melamed, Sufe Bradshaw, Rosalind Chao, Timm Sharp, Bianca Lopez, Evan Jonigkeit, Anna Konkle
release US 23.Apr.21,
UK Jul.21 slf
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
It's remarkable how this comedy finds moments of laugh-out-loud humour alongside warm emotion without ever dipping into sentimentality. With a tightly contained story, writer-director Nikole Beckwith explores parenthood from two distinct perspectives that raise a whole new set of thoughtful questions. And among the way, the film reveals some knowing truths about human connections as two very different people begin to find common ground in their shared purpose.
When Matt (Helms) hires Anna (Harrison) to be the surrogate mother of his child, she's determined to maintain boundaries, because this isn't her baby. But he gets over-involved, and she doesn't mind since she has few friends. With 20 years between them, she rejects the idea of romance (this isn't a Woody Allen movie), but agrees to let him experience her pregnancy. And she in turn helps him work out how to be a dad. Meanwhile, they navigate the opinions of family and friends who can't quite get their head around their relationship.
Cleverly, the people around them are preoccupied with their own lives, never quite grasping what Matt and Anna are going through. This provides a steady stream of hilarity, as conversations swerve in unexpected directions, often pushing Matt or Anna into an awkward corner. Meanwhile, their personal interaction is barbed and intelligent, packed with wry banter and a subtle sense of the affection between them. So as Matt introduces Anna to the iconic sitcom, she observes at the end that "we finished Friends".
Helms and Harrison deliver to-and-fro dialog with improvisational skill, which makes it feel strikingly authentic. These are two normal people working together to create a family, except of course that they're not together together. Of the side roles, the show-stealer by a mile is Torres as Anna's cafe-worker colleague, whose current of ridiculous comments is simply hysterical. And Dunn is also terrific as Matt's endlessly prickly mother.
It's nice to see a comedy in which the characters are grounded, never cartoonish. No one is vilified; everyone is simply trying to get on with life as best they can. This particular unusual situation is also dredging up issues from the past for both Matt and Anna, and each is able to spin it in a positive way for the other. So as they approach the final birth sequence, each is in a very different place than where they started. And Beckwith gives the end of the story a refreshing blast of ambiguity that allows us to imagine a lot more.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
|HOME | REVIEWS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK