SXSW Online 2021 Review: “Recovery”

Year: 2021
Duration: 1h 20m
Directors: Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek
Writers: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton
Starring: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Julia Jolley

By Caz Armstrong

This pandemic-based roadtrip comedy sees two sisters racing across the country to free their grandma from a covid-infested nursing home. With comic vibes and palpable chemistry reminiscent of “Booksmart” directors Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek have a very funny, very timely film.

Sisters Jamie and Blake (co-writers Whitney Call and Mallory Everton) are living a normal fun-filled life with parties and lots of friends. When Covid hits their lives are immediately changed. They take on the rituals of cleansing groceries, washing clothes after going out, and social isolation.

When they discover that Covid has reached the nursing home where their grandma lives they take it on themselves to drive half way across the country to liberate her. On the way they meet a range of obstacles and difficulties that threaten to derail the entire trip.

“Recovery” Credit: Brenna Empey

You can’t get more current than a pandemic-themed film during a pandemic. We hope that the market is not about to be flooded with such films while we’re all still experiencing a collective trauma. But “Recovery” is based on the absurd way our lives changed in an instant and it does it well.

The film picked up on a number of different elements of pandemic life. Seeing two people drinking from the same cup with slow motion dread and horror was actually pretty accurate. As was the sudden change in circumstances when the pandemic hit at the start of the film. Happy free parties with lots of guests suddenly turns into mooching around your own house and building your own quarantine routines.

There is a real chemistry between the two leads that creates a charming relationship. Much of their interactions feel like they were ad-libbed, each just riffing off the other. This chemistry goes a long way to fending off those unwanted “film-about-the-pandemic” vibes. It’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Despite being exaggerated for comedic effect the characters themselves still came across as warm and fully rounded.

However, it could perhaps have benefitted from a bit more seriousness in places. The film is set in the early stages of the pandemic when there was a lot of panic and many unknowns. But even at that stage we knew people were dying. Death is touched on once or twice but all too quickly the point is undone.

Death should not be taken lightly, but adding more of that darkness would have helped balance the tone and give the characters that much more depth.

“Recovery”

Setting the film around a roadtrip was a great way to keep the budget down and still add some jeopardy to the situation. Will they make it across the country in time to rescue grandma from the apocalyptic nursing home?

But more than that, seeing the beautiful countryside roll by actually had a strong emotional effect. Such wide open spaces and freedom remind us what we’re missing. It creates a longing for the days when we can get out again and travel, see beautiful landscapes and feel that freedom. I really need to get to America for a roadtrip one day soon.

“Recovery” is a very funny and charming low-budget gem. The clear energy between the lead characters makes the film come to life. A slightly more serious edge would have given more depth in places but Everton and Meek have done a wonderful job of capturing a very specific situation with humour and warmth.

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