(director/writer: Andrew Irvine/Mark Smoot; screenwriter: story by Andrew Irvine; cinematographer: Jomo Fray; editor: Brad Besser; music: Jon Natchez; cast: Catherine Keener (Claire), Charlie Heaton (Will), Rosa Salazar (Becca), Jackie Earle Haley (Philip), Jefferson White (Chris), Austin Amelio (Preston), Heather Kafka (Linda), Jason Douglas (Doug), Kia Nicole Boyer (Erin), Mollie Milligan (Deborah), Jasmine Shanise (Woman in nursery); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Jeff Walker, Kelly Williams, Jonathan Duffy: Ten Acre Films; 2020)

“Thrives on its bleak atmosphere.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Andrew Irvine and Mark Smoot (“The Love Inside”) co-direct and co-write from a story by Irvine an intimate character driven downbeat drama on the emotional problems over addiction. The film does a fine job pointing out how the addict relates to his family and how every moment can become critical.

The recovering addict, Will (Charlie Heaton), has been sober for awhile and seems on his way to full recovery with a steady job and a supportive relationship with Becca (Rosa Salazar). Then his old friend Chris (Jefferson White) is released from prison and reappears, only to overdose and after a conversation with Will commits suicide. Suffering from guilt, Will connects with Will’s long-suffering mom, Claire (Catherine Keener), and they mess around. Their affair is less about sex than the pain they share over Chris’ demise.

Chris’s estranged father Philip (Jackie Earle Haley), tries to help his son when he visited him, but doesn’t know how to.

The slow paced drama gets over as a sensitive film about a timely subject, with both Heaton and Keener giving very moving realistic performances.

The simple story plays out over a brief period of time, and makes an impression as a bittersweet film that thrives on its bleak atmosphere and its message about the dangers of addiction.

Salazar does well in an underwritten role. It’s a heartbreaking tale–which was a little too bleak for me to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and its drug messages were too obvious.

It played at Tribecca 2021.

REVIEWED ON 10/10/2021  GRADE: B-