Friday, March 19, 2021

SXSW with Abe: Recovery

I’m thrilled to be covering SXSW for the third time. This year, I’m not in Austin, but watching films virtually and reviewing them as soon as I can.

Directed by Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek
Narrative Spotlight

One of the most stressful concepts during the pandemic for those who have closely followed restrictions is the idea of travel. The nonchalant and dismissive responses that emphasizing how intense and off-putting it would be to need to drive somewhere and potentially come into contact with untold numbers of strangers elicit even more anxiety. Yet the health and wellbeing of someone more vulnerable is an excellent reason to risk it all, which serves as the catalyst for this very entertaining buddy comedy.

Blake (Mallory Everton) and Jamie (Whitney Call) are sisters with big plans for 2020. Those hopes go down the drain when coronavirus hits and they begin an intensive quarantining process where their few outings feature a fully involved sanitization process of body and clothing as soon as they reenter their clean space. When they learn of a COVID-19 outbreak at their grandmother’s nursing home, they brave the outside world to drive across the country and rescue her before their other sister, who is ignoring regulations to the point of being on a cruise while the world around her is locked down, returns to pick her up first and surely infect her.

This is a fantastic film for this moment, one that taps into the feelings that so many who realize just how unseriously others are behaving in the face of a wildly transmissible virus have. It’s validating to see that Blake and Jamie’s protocols are more stringent even than what some of this reviewer’s strictest friends have instituted, and also maddening when their practices don’t match up completely, like the failure to have a glove at the ready for a trip to a gas station or the non-universal wearing of masks in any outdoor public space. While it is possible that, like similar material that seems to be very popular at the moment, the appeal of this fare may fade over time, it’s an excellent snapshot of the present that really finds the funny in all of it.

This film works best thanks to its two leads, who wrote the script together while Everton codirected. They’re a pleasure to watch on screen together, playing off each other with superb comic timing and capturing the energy of sisters who are also best friends. The way they react to the horrifying things they encounter that make them never want to leave home again is priceless, and the dialogue they write for themselves is very entertaining. This film does veer into exaggerated territory on numerous occasions, but even when it’s not exactly realistic, it’s still wildly enjoyable. Everton and Call demonstrate enormous promise that’s already more than fulfilled here with a movie that’s sure both to delight audiences and hit too close to home in the best kind of way.


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