(director/writer: Michael Glover Smith; cinematographer: Olivia Aquilina; editor: Eric Marsh; music: Cait Rappel; cast:  Wendie Robie (Karen Frank), Francis Guinan (David Frank), Clare Cooney (Evonne Frank), Keith D. Gallagher (Rod Frank), Elizabeth Slam (Hekla), Melissa Duprey (Lucia Aguirre), Emily Lape (Norma Frank), Aaron Wertheimer (Aaron), Cameron Scott Roberts (Benji Frank), Heather Chrisler (Sarah); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers:  Clare Cooney/Aaron Wertheimer; Chicago Film Project/Noise Floor; 2022)

“An engaging and observant dysfunctional family drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Chicago indie filmmaker Michael Glover Smith (“Mercury in Retrograde”/”Cool Apocalypse”), on a micro budget, directs and writes an engaging and observant dysfunctional family drama about a Chicago suburban sixty-something working-class couple, the sweetheart librarian Karen and the idle retiree David Frank (Wendy Robie & Francis Guinan).

The family head calls for a weekend gathering to celebrate the college graduation of the family’s youngest son Benji (Cameron Scott Roberts), who is anxious to move out of the family home in Rogers Park and begin his career as a digital cartographer for Google. His unemployed pot smoking older 34-year-old brother, Rod (Keith D. Gallagher), meanwhile has stayed in his folks’ basement for the last five years since a bad breakup with his webcam performer ex-wife Sarah (Heather Chrisler). Rod’s viewed as a failure for his empty life, while Benji is the family’s hope.

Also at the celebration is their daughter Evonne (Clare Cooney), living in Wisconsin. She brings along her Black girlfriend/lover Lucia (Melissa Duprey), who she’s thinking of splitting with, and their mixed-race daughter Emma (Arielle Gonzalez). The older married other sister, seemingly but probably not the least bummed-out family member, Norma (Emily Lape), from Iowa, talks openly to her parents about her perception that the family is coming apart.

Benji brings along his classmate girlfriend Hekla (Elizabeth Slam), and splits from the party with her. But she gets him to come back. The film takes a comical turn with her intuitive performance.

We learn the parents have talked to each other about selling the house they lived in all their married life but haven’t said a word to the rest of the family. Their probable move to wherever will for sure alter the family dynamics.

In this modern-day drama, the family is scrutinized in many different ways, such as for stress.

It has the vibes of a Mike Leigh film (not including his liberal politics). I’m a big fan of  the Brit director’s insightful “kitchen sink dramas” and think the talented Mr. Smith also has a good feel for getting into the heads of his featured regular people in this realistic family drama.

REVIEWED ON 8/19/2022  GRADE:  B+