(director: Hannah Marks; screenwriter: Vera Herbert; cinematographer: Jaron Presant; editor: Paul Frank; music: Jessica Rose Weiss; cast:  John Cho (Max Park), Mia Isaac (Wally), Kaya Scodelario (Annie), Mitchel Hope (Rusty), Josh Thompson (Guy Connolly), Otis Dhanji (Glenn), Jemaine Clement (Dale Angelo), Stefania Owen (Sandra); Runtime:  110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: John De Line/Leah Holzer/Peter Saraf; Prime Video; 2022)

“Things feel right until the game-changer ending takes it down a road I felt it shouldn’t have gone.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A family drama directed by the New Zealander Hannah Marks (“After Everything”/”Mark, Mary & Some Other People”) and written by Vera Herbert. Too bad it’s such a manipulative film that comes with a poor ending, as much of the film does a decent job of having the single parent Max Park (John Cho) relating to his teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac), after he learns he’s dying of a cancerous brain tumor and takes her on a cross-country trip to meet the birth mother she doesn’t know.

Wally is your typical suburban teen (who narrates), filled with angst and an appetite for life. She is in a relationship with Glenn (Otis Dhanji), who just wants sex.

On the road they hit Las Vegas to try some gambling and drive through the flat plains of Texas (with the roadside of New Zealand subbing for those areas).

There was a sweetness, some iffy comic moments and their conversations seemed natural through this middle road part of the film.

In the last 20 minutes the film abruptly changes tone and becomes tragic in a different way than we expected it to be tragic.

Things feel right until the game-changer ending takes it down a road I felt it shouldn’t have gone. But I found for most of the narrative I connected with it. Though I question if its warmth was genuine. I felt used after a voiceover at the film’s start tells us”You’re not gonna like the way this story ends, but I think you’re gonna like this story.”  … Not so fast, my friend.

Played at Tribeca.

REVIEWED ON 8/14/2022  GRADE: C+