ABOUT: Set a decade or so in the past, Meredith Hama-Brown’s debut feature tells the story of a family on the verge of coming closer together — or drifting further apart.

Judith (Ally Maki) is Japanese Canadian; her husband Steve (Luke Roberts) is white. They’re having some problems communicating with each other, so they’ve found a family retreat on the Pacific coast where kids can hang out while their parents confront one another in group-therapy sessions. But the time together exposes new fractures in the family’s internal dynamic: 11-year-old Stephanie (Nyha Breitkreuz) starts acting out, while six-year-old Emmy (Remy Marthaller) insists she can feel Judith’s recently departed mother watching over them all.

Whether or not Emmy is right, something is certainly hanging over this family — a cloud of tension and dissatisfaction between Judith and Steve that neither can fully articulate, but both recognize. And the more time Judith spends around another couple, Carol (Sarah Gadon) and Pat (Chris Pang), the more she worries that saving her marriage might not be the best move.

My Reaction: I remember meeting filmmaker Meredith Hama-Brown many years ago at the genre fest Fantastic Fest in Austin and was impressed already by her work. I loved this short and as a fellow BC-native, it was also great to see her from time to time at festivals at home. Finally, Meredith is here with her terrific and visually powerful feature debut which is both a telling story about marriage but also a coming of age story at the same time, both involving a married couple headed out to a couples’ therapy retreat along with the effect that it has on their kids who are both going through personal issues. Lensed on film negative by the always outstanding Norm Li that features the British Columbia shoreline in fascinating detail, this very slow-burn becomes quite effective in the second half, especially when secrets about everyone’s past start to be revealed. I loved how there is a balance of time between the husband and wife as they connect with another married couple (notable here is the always great Sarah Gadon in a supporting role) and the children, who are both incredibly natural here. The movie has a slight but eventual build, a dread forming and especially a great couple of sequences where we see terror of a beach spot from the child’s perspective makes for some pretty terrific storytelling. I can see this with a small Canadian release but will find a larger home on streaming. 

TIFF Media

Note: Game Theory and Route 504 PR provided a screening link for review ahead of the festival.

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