All Relative written and directed by J.C. Khoury is a multi-genre comedy-romance-drama. If the fault is that it starts off slowly with the set up, it does pick up speed to race toward the finish line after the couples meet and the conflict moves head to head. The droll humor is led by double entendre and ironic undercurrents, but the resolution is satisfying. All together, this is a feel-good movie that has a few trip wires of meaning that most will appreciate.
New Yorkers Harry (a thoroughly relaxed, engaging and down-to-earth performance by Jonathan Sadowski), and Grace (the prolific, well-versed Sara Paxton), meet under comfortable circumstances with friends (Al Thompson, Liz Fye), at a bowling alley and something clicks. However, the first obstacle is that Grace is already seeing someone, even if it is only superficial, thus far. Harry, just released from a relationship, is sorrowful that she seems interested but has distanced herself to friendship. Her gentle- interested-rebuff encourages Harry all the more since she seems to be someone who has integrity and values, and is truly real. To drown his regretful loss, Harry has a heart-to-heart drink with the bartender at a neighborhood bar. Maren, who is eavesdropping, introduces herself and Harry allows himself to be seduced by this beautiful and mysterious older woman (a fine performance by Connie Nielsen).
Maren is in New York for the weekend and is available for sexual coupling. Maren and Harry enjoy each other; during the course of conversation, Maren gives Harry advice to use with Grace and encourages him to text her. Jealousy shatters Maren’s heart when Harry receives a text from Grace to meet for coffee. Maren tells him that if he leaves, he must not come back for any more sex. Harry is astounded she is dumping him because she advised him to text Grace to begin with. It is apparent he doesn’t get women’s hearts and the need for exclusivity.
After their coffee meet-up, Grace and Harry become fast friends. Harry wishes for more and Grace, who is unclear about what she wants, invites Harry over to meet her Dad who will help Harry get a job in Harry’s new career. Perhaps this weekend will step up their relationship to intimacy and romance and, as icing on the cake, Harry may be able to secure a lucrative position in her Dad Phil’s (David Aaron Baker), firm. However, there is a problem. The mysterious, beautiful woman Harry slept with and sexually enjoyed is Grace’s mom, Maren.
The scene of recognition between Maren and Harry is very funny. Harry realizes he is completely out of his depth without a life preserver and drowning in the stormy fury in Maren’s eyes. How Maren and Harry end up negotiating the weekend and their partners’ ignorance is humorous. It includes every twist and turn about marital infidelity, falling in love, honesty in relationships, living with lies, and loyalty to one’s spouse or hoped-for-spouse.
The overriding question the writer-director slams us with: Is it better for Maren and Harry to confess their sexual encounter to Phil and Grace, or is it better to identify the sex as meaningless fun and forget it ever happened? Surrounding the question there are jousts and dodges, rehearsals of truth-telling, mistaken assumptions and a host of other humorous sequences, all ironic, funny and authentic. During the course of the weekend, the truth of why Maren has a sexual fling with Harry is uncovered. The director has managed to find a refreshing way to resolve the issue between Maren and Phil because they have years of experience being married which helps.
However, Harry and Grace do not. It’s a problem. Relationships are never easy, especially when you discover you’ve slept with your intended girlfriend’s mother. How do you get over that if you then marry her and have to get along with the sexy mother-in-law and the cuckholded father-in-law for the rest of your life? How do you not have your wife throw it in your face when you inevitably have arguments? Thank goodness, the film is not that profound. Indeed, the director/writer has managed to deal with this future scenario through an intriguing response by Maren and Phil. Whether it is completely realistic doesn’t matter. It is hopeful and encourages us toward forgiveness, always a good thing.
All Relative opens November 21st to VOD (itunes) and in theaters (10 cities).
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