The film wastes no time, by being honest in its dialogue and non-narrative action. It begins with the year anniversary of the death of Jack’s (Mark Duplass) brother Tom, his friends making toasts and sharing stories about his life. Immediately it is apparent from the conversations at the anniversary that Jack is in an alcoholic depressive slump, a result of him never having been as close to his brother as he had hoped while he was alive.
In a different role than his one as a side character in FX’s show “The League,” Duplass shows off his serious side in a dark and comedic yet frustrated performance.
To help Jack come to terms with the past year of his life, Iris (Emily Blunt), Tom’s widowed girlfriend, offers him a place to get his head straight at her vacation home on a remote island off Washington’s coast. Under the impression that his stay was supposed to be a solo mental cleanse, things complicate upon his arrival, since Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) also chose to get herself to move on at that same vacation home after a bad breakup with her ex-girlfriend.
Calm is the pace. It moves when it needs to move and simmers while character traits are revealed out of Jack’s, Iris’ and Hannah’s dialogues with each other. Though the only three characters to have a significant role in the film, they carry it with the sincerity in their reactions to awkward and dark situations and snappy retorts that draws shock laughter.
Bittersweet in its essence, and correct in its etiquette, these traits make it difficult to dislike and draw negatives at the “Sideways” reminiscent tone of the last half of the film. It feels like the audience has gone through a relationship with each of the characters in their own light, a catharsis of everyone, the result.
The film’s shots are cool and gray, partial to the setting. It covers all the topography of the filming locations, from the small suburban towns to the quiet rural beauty of the island most of the film takes place on.
The soundtrack is filled with rampant backwoodsy guitar riffs, though in the most important scenes, the background music reminds “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” when Jim Carrey’s character is drugged before dream surgery. It adds an ominous tone, essential to the bits of drama.
The conclusion is a heartfelt one, but predictable after the fact.
Nevertheless the film gets its message across in a organized manner thanks to its consistency.