Nightstream Film Festival Capsule Reviews: ‘Reunion’ And ‘Rose Plays Julie’

by Rachel Bellwoar


Written and Directed by Jake Mahaffy

Sell the house or finish her novel? Both are reasons Ellie (Emma Draper) might want to stay at her grandparents’ house, but which is the actual reason she’s there? Because Ellie’s mom (Julia Ormond) is so insistent Ellie wants to sell, it takes a while to pick up on the fact that she might be lying but then Ellie and her mom aren’t always on the same page. Ellie thought she’d be staying at the house by herself, for example. Instead she arrives to find both her parents staying there.

Reunion is a puzzle box of a movie, except unlike the sliver of glass Ellie carries around from a vase she’s determined to find amongst her mother’s boxes, the pieces don’t seem to fit. The vase, and the mystery surrounding it, is actually the one storyline that does deliver some closure, but then there are other details that don’t add up, like the house being Ellie’s grandparents’.

Why not just make the house Ellie’s childhood home? She’s never shown living anywhere else and her grandparents only appear once in a home movie. It seems like an overcomplication. Meanwhile Mahaffy makes viewers conscious of the camera in the same way a found footage movie would, except found footage movies are supposed to look unpolished and have static lines. In Reunion, those lines just take you out of the movie because it’s not meant to be shot live on a camcorder.

Sometimes it’s a prop that cements a character and for Ellie’s mom it’s the keys she carries on a chain around her neck. Reunion, however, doesn’t have that same sense of identity, and could’ve benefited from a tighter script.

Rose Plays Julie

Written and Directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy

Every job has its drawbacks, or those aspects you wouldn’t want to lead with if you were trying to convince somebody they should apply. For vets, a unit studying euthanasia, perhaps? Rose’s professor (Alan Howley) says something, though, at the beginning of class that ends up resonating with her in ways she never would’ve expected. He talks about pet owners who come in asking to have their pets euthanized, not for being sick, but because of bad behavior. At the time it’s unclear why that remark makes Rose (Anne Skelly) think of a cop, but she’s actually thinking about her birth mother, Ellen (Orla Brady). She’s not really a cop. She’s an actress who played one once for a role, but Rose has been looking for her and in Rose Plays Julie she finally decides to give her a call. In the process, however, Rose ends up becoming distracted and, in one of my favorite scenes, ends up missing her birth mother’s call because she was trying to find out more about her birth dad (Aidan Gillen).

Phone calls are very telling in Lawlor and Molloy’s movie. When Rose talks to her adopted dad on the phone, for instance, you only hear Rose’s side of the conversation but during other conversations you see, and hear, both sides. The way this movie’s constructed overall is incredible. Nothing is premeditated but there are all these lovely parallels (and maybe “lovely” is the wrong word, but you truly feel like you’re on this journey with Rose). At the heart of the film, though, is this mother-daughter relationship between Rose and Ellen, and Skelly and Brady really let it develop in its own time. Once you understand what the title means, this thriller couldn’t be more riveting.

Nightstream ran from October 8th to October 11th. You can still catch some of the films here until October 14th.

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