Thursday, March 14, 2019

SXSW with Abe: South Mountain

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

South Mountain
Directed by Hilary Brougher
Narrative Feature Competition

A marriage takes work, and there are many factors that can complicate a situation which makes dealing with it particularly delicate. Children are one such element, and in some cases parents stay together until their children are grown solely to be able to provide a stable home for their offspring while they are young. Determining the point at which children may be sufficiently old and mature to be able to function on their own is subjective and highly dependent on each individual case, and the way that an adult changes during that time must be accounted for as well to honestly chart the course for a couple fated not to stay together.

Lila (Talia Balsam) begins the summer in the Catskills with her family and her best friend Gigi (Andrus Nichols), unaware that her husband Edgar (Scott Cohen) is in the next room watching a woman he has impregnated give birth while he claims to be getting notes from a producer. Once he admits what has happened and announces his intention to move with the baby’s mother to Brooklyn, Lila struggles to maintain a sense of sanity and purpose as Gigi undergoes chemotherapy and her daughters slowly distance themselves from home. Her daughter Sam’s friend Jonah (Michael Oberholtzer) proves to be an unexpected kindred spirit, desiring to spend time with Sam and paying attention to her in a way no one else does.

This film’s scenes are broken up by the dates that accompany their beginnings, charting a course from the start of the summer as time passes slowly and uneventfully. The moments in which Edgar is absent almost feel more comfortable than the ones where he is present, since Lila still holds on to the belief that they can get through this as they have past hurdles. The attitude he expresses is definitely unhealthy, in part blaming Lila for being a willing participant in the dissolution of her marriage which was indeed undone purely by Edgar’s infidelity. Lila is hopeless to affect events around her and yearns for some sort of power that she does not have.

Balsam, who has played recurring roles on “Divorce” and “Mad Men,” turns in a fine performance that is much more focused and intentional than much of this movie, which tries to capture the spirit of a polluted summer oasis yet doesn’t succeed. Cohen is unlikeable as he should be, yet he doesn’t serve as a strong scene partner for Balsam. This film approaches worthwhile notions and ideas but doesn’t feel sure enough of where it wants to go to be compelling.


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