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  • In Our Nature | Review

    SXSW FILM 2012

    By | December 11, 2012

    *Originally published on March 16, 2012*

    Director: Brian Savelson

    Writer: Brian Savelson

    Starring: Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery, Gabrielle Union

    Seth (Zach Gilford) and Andie (Jena Malone) are youthful sweethearts from Brooklyn who have made the trip upstate to Seth’s family’s lake house in the Catskills for a romantic weekend. The two have been together for a couple of years and Seth has decided it’s time to pop the question so he’s clandestinely brought a ring along and has big plans. Not long after settling in, the pair begin to unwind from their drive by undressing each other and rolling around on the floor only to be disturbed by the sound of a car pulling up to the house. It turns out it’s none other than Gil (John Slattery), Seth’s father, and his long-term (but unknown to Seth) girlfriend Vicky (Gabrielle Union), who are also looking forward to a romantic weekend getaway.

    We soon learn that Seth and Gil have a strained, virtually estranged, relationship. Clearly neither is happy to see the other. The two girlfriends are caught in the middle and each strive to make the best of a bad situation. After a bit of a back and forth about which couple will stay and which couple will leave, eventually it’s decided that the best course of action is for both couples to spend the weekend together. What follows is a strained weekend where hidden scars are revealed and romantic relationships are pushed to their breaking point and possibly beyond. Wine is consumed. Pot is smoked. The differences between vegetarian and vegan diets are mockingly examined by a carnivore. Voices are occasionally raised and feelings are hurt.

    If something sounds familiar about all of this,  an indie ensemble piece about struggling romances and dysfunctional parent/child relationships, that’s because this film is treading somewhat well-traveled ground. But thanks to first time feature film director (and writer) Brian Savelson’s admirable insight and restraint in presenting these characters and strong, assured performances by all four actors, the film manages to avoid feeling completely tired. That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle at times to fight off a creeping feeling of indifference to Seth and Gil’s story.

    It quickly becomes clear that Seth is damaged goods, carrying a lot of pent up anger over the treatment he received as a young man at the hands of his type-A perfectionist father. As the film progresses, through sharp dialogue and painful interactions we see that Gil has often been too quick to express disappointment and too reticent with his praise, leading Seth to withdraw behind a wall of feigned indifference. The two girlfriends are mostly just along for the ride,  with Vicky particularly serving mostly as a sounding board for the emotions of the two men. Of course, that makes sense after we discover that she is a therapist.

    Where Savelson shines most is in his nuanced presentation of father and son, leading to the audience’s sympathies perpetually swinging back and forth between the two. Sure, Gil has been too hard on his son but Seth sure can be an immature whiner. Ultimately, the question for me was whether I really care about an the fractured relationship between an affluent New York father and his wounded sensitive artistically inclined son and their cathartic weekend at the ritzy family vacation home in the Catskills (and boy, do the film’s outdoor shots of the Catskills look beautiful!). Despite being mildly entertained throughout the film, the answer ultimately is “not really.”

    Rating: 6/10

    IN OUR NATURE opens in Austin, TX this Friday, December 14th, 2012. 

    To celebrate the Austin premiere, Producer, and former Austinite, Anish Savjani and Director Brain Savelson will be in Austin to participate in Q&As at the 7:30 PM screenings on Friday, December 14th and Saturday, December 15th.

    Austin Tickets: Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills

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