I must admit that I knew very little going into this film (other than the reviews were mainly positive and that Melanie Lynskey was in it). I soon learned that this was the opening night film of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival back in January. It is a testament to this film that by the end I was moved by it; such an engaging story about characters who feel trapped by circumstances that were not of their doing and have great difficulty in overcoming them.
Melanie Lynskey stars as Amy Minsky, a recent divorcee in her mid-30s who has moved back in with her parents (Blythe Danner, John Rubinstein) in suburban Connecticut. Amy seems aimless; directionless. Crushed by her husband leaving her, she’s uncertain of her future. But one night, she meets Jeremy (Christopher Abbott), a 19 year-old actor who’s the stepson of her father’s client. After an awkward dinner between the two families, Amy and Jeremy sense that they’re kindred spirits. They start having an affair, and Amy soon rediscovers a passion for life that’s been missing for years.
Lynskey is simply excellent here in a leading role (it’s about damn time she had one). Her nuanced performance here allows you to sympathize with her character in a way that might not have been possible if the character had been played by a different actress. For me, the most crushing moment for her comes in a scene where Amy goes looking for Jeremy at a party, but when she encounters one of the young party-goers, he yells to the party, “Hey, someone’s mom is here!” Her priceless reaction sums up the fate that awaits her relationship with Jeremy.
Along with her charming, Oscar-worthy performance, I would add Christopher Abbott to my list of actors worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination for 2012. The arc his character goes through is one a lot of young people can relate to: continuing to do something you hate simply because it’s expected of you or because it satisfies your parents (who think they know what’s best for you but really don’t). It really says something about how disconnected Jeremy’s parents (particularly his mother) are from him when he feels that it’s easier for him to let them think he’s gay rather than tell them that he hates acting and no longer wants to do it.
Special mention must be made of Blythe Danner, whose performance here is subtle and almost heartbreaking. As Amy’s mom, she wants what’s best for Amy (which, to her, is for Amy to start getting out of the house more often and to stop giving up on things). She has her own problems as well. There’s the home renovations that are taking way too long, and then there’s her long, long awaited trip around the world with her husband that she’s hoping she’ll finally get to take. The trip may or may not happen depending on whether or not her husband finally retires (which may or not not happen depending on if his latest deal goes through or not). These problems may not seem so sympathetic to middle or lower class people, but to be fair, Amy’s parents had lost a majority of their money due to the recession. And it is to Danner’s credit that she manages to create a sympathetic character despite these hurdles. The fear of facing your golden years alone is one that is shared by all, and Danner’s empty nester is certainly not immune to this fear.
From a terrific Sarah Koskoff script to Todd Louiso’s excellent directing, this film also features outstanding cinematography by Julie Kirkwood and an appropriate score by Laura Veirs. I was lucky enough to catch this film during my Philadelphia visit, so if it’s still playing near you, don’t hesitate to go see it. You’d only be depriving yourself of a wonderful film going experience.