Director/screenwriter Shana Feste presented her engaging and robust feature world premiere Boundaries, at SXSW Film Festival. In her world premiere at the SXSW Q&A Feste suggested that the film’s zany episodes rang true from her own relationship with her father. Indeed, the film lovingly encapsulates what it means to reconnect with estranged family members. Assuredly, the power of the unity achieved after long silences creates lasting bonds. As the main focus of the film Feste deftly crafts the portrait of a father, his grown-up daughter and 14-year-old grandson. In seeking his own path the father has thrown them over throughout his life. He has metaphorically/literally abandoned them. Yet, he returns to them for help when they least expect it. For he trusts that somewhere, somehow they still love him.
At the opening of the film Jack (Christopher Plummer in a delightful, whimsical portrayal), a former dealer who has seen jail time, troubles his nursing home staff for the last time. After this most recent escapade, officials determine to evict him. Seemingly, Jack’s incorrigible nature caused him to be kicked out of other nursing homes. With no alternatives, the home compels Jack in the direction of family, an unwelcome consideration for them and him. That Jack creates the situation and blows up his opportunities by his own hand in an established pattern, becomes clear as the film progresses.
Thus, when Jack challenges his adult children to rescue him, Laura ( the fine Vera Farmiga), initially refuses. She finds it nearly impossible to forgive the hurt he caused her. And their past, filled with recriminations appears to determine their future alienation and estrangement. Thus, suspecting the worst, she refuses to answers his calls. Nevertheless, her manipulative and charming father persists. Though difficulties with her rebellious teenage son Henry (Lewis MacDougall), keep her distracted for a time, she softens and speaks to Jack.
Interestingly, the dire circumstances about Jack’s eviction have backed the family into a corner. Finally, she and her sister decide that Jack must go to California. Thus, with her son in tow, Laura drives to the Texas nursing home to pick Jack up. She intends to relocate him to her sister’s in California and be rid of him. Unhappy about the road trip with her father, she resolves to make the best of it in as short a time as possible.
However, nothing turns out as expected. Jack weasels and manipulates his daughter. And Henry picks up pointers from his grandfather. Consequently, Henry importunes Laura to stop and visit his Dad. This detour becomes one of a few detours Laura takes on their road trip. Unbeknownst to her, Jack purchases some marijuana and deals it under her unsuspecting nose. Appreciative, Henry conspires with his grandad for the fun.
Stresses, strains, chaos, confrontation, forgiveness, and reconciliation result in a grand design which brings everyone closer together. A daughter rediscovers her father. A father receives love at a time in his life when he needs it most. A grandson discovers his roots in his cool, wise granddad. And the bond between them grows in a healthy mutual appreciation. Notably, Laura becomes empowered by forgiveness. And her renewed understanding of the importance of family coherence solidifies. Thus, through these experiences, she receives the strength to stand up to her son’s father Leonard (Bobby Cannavale). And she does this with Jack’s help.
To conclude Feste specializes in establishing familial relationships with a soupcon of humor and dollop of pathos. Importantly, her characterizations are undergirded with logic and realism. And her keen ability to write authentic dialogue with humorous quips manifests with precision. Notably, this occurs most acutely between mother and son, father and daughter.
Additionally, Feste shepherds the actors toward charm, effervescence and humanity. Plummer is sterling, as usual. And the interplay between him and Farmiga develops beautifully. Surely, we enjoy watching Jack slyly, sarcastically nurture his daughter and grandson. Consequently, with his wily, slick ways, he stirs them to appreciate life’s adventures. So that with grace and faith, they might walk life’s pathways unafraid to cope with uncertainty.
Feste, Plummer, Farmiga have fun with the situations and their roles. Thus, their enjoyment makes the comedy sparkle. Boundaries work best when individuals have the flexibility to know when to exceed them. And the wisdom to place invisible lines of love to hold in those they treasure. The film reveals the beauty and wisdom of the boundaries of love. The more far-ranging the fence-line, the tighter the bonds.