(director/writer: Hilary Brougher; cinematographer: Ethan Mass; editor: Maria Rosenblum; music: Herdis Stefansdottir; cast: Scott Cohen (Edgar), Talia Balsam (Lila), Michael Oberholtzer (Jonah), Andrus Nichols (Gigi), Naian Gonzalez Norvind (Dara), Violet Rea (Charlotte), Guthrie Mass (Jake), Isis Masoud (Gemma), Macaulee Cassady (Sam); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Susan A. Stover, Maria Rosenblum, Kristin M. Frost; Cinetic; 2019)

“A powerful female-centered drama that is a meditation on loss and healing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director-writer Hilary Brougher (“The Sticky Fingers of Time”/”Stephanie Daley”) scopes out a relationship bitterly coming apart for an educated couple in New York’s upstate Catskill Mountains. It’s a powerful female-centered drama that is a meditation on loss and on healing.This is the kind of high-brow domestic story that the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman thrived on, especially in films like Scenes From A Marriage (1973). This film covers the same theme of a long-time marriage dissolving, and runs into the same problems Bergman had with the women trying to keep themselves together during such an ordeal.

The middle-aged Lila (Talia Balsam, the daughter of actor Martin Balsam and actress Joyce Van Patten) is an artist and teacher at the local community college, who during the summer is going through marital problems at her Catskill’s home (filmed at Brougher’s mother’s Catskill place). She is shocked to learn her philandering screenwriter husband, Edgar (Scott Cohen), is the father of his lady friend Gemma’s (Isis Masoud) baby and has left her to start a new family. When alone, with her grief sinking in, Lila’s close friend Gigi (Andrus Nichols), with two teen children, Charlotte (Violet Rea) and Jake (Guthrie Mass, the director’s real-life child), is a regular house caller and someone she feels free to vent her anger on. Gigi has breast cancer and is at the beginning stages of chemotherapy, as the ladies commiserate with each other but also get on the nerves of one another.  

Frustrated and out of revenge, the angered Lila will have an affair with one of the friends of her adopted daughter Sam (Macaulee Cassady), from her husband’s first marriage.The boy’s name is Jonah (Michael Oberholtzer). The other daughter, Dara (Naian Gonzalez Norvind), is the child of Lily and Edgar.

Later on Lila will try to poison her ex-husband in their post-breakup get together but quickly comes to her senses and rescues him, which is the most shocking incident in this quiet but messy relationship drama.

The cinematographer, Ethan Mass, is the director’s husband, who does a good job capturing the beauty of the country atmosphere.The star of the film, Talia Balsam, is the reason for seeing it, as she carries it as far as it can go, considering its limitations, with her amazingly believable passionate performance.

The arthouse indie drama had its premiere at SXSW earlier this year and was later screened at BAMcinemaFEst.

south mountain review

REVIEWED ON 7/15/2019       GRADE: B