James Clay// Film Review
RECOVERY is the first time COVID has been funny. This SXSW darling managed to be a thoughtful, humorous, and heartfelt road trip that most importantly feels natural. The film directed by Mallory Everton (who also stars in the movie) and Stephen Meek. The creative team and Whitney Call, who co-wrote the script cut their teeth at Brigham Young University on the show STUDIO C.
Their comedy chops were able to farm out of their college experiences is impressive and formed into a genuinely funny film that outshines any SNL zoom episodes or cringe-worthy celebrity sing-alongs.
The point being RECOVERY has a voice, which makes all the COVID-centric jokes memorable. It’s a shared experience of freaking out after touching the gas pump handle, the stress of not know if our groceries are contaminated. This goes beyond the jokes of the great toilet paper crisis of 2020. The humor is rooted in real anxieties and knowing that if we stick inside our bubble, everything will be okay, but sometimes knowing that just isn’t an option.
Elementary school teacher Jamie (Call) and her sister Blake (Everton) open the film at a not-so pandemic friendly part just before the news breaks. We all have to cease all social contact effective immediately. Luckily Everton and Meek breeze through the COVID touchstones and go onto the pandemic’s crux for these supremely cool and silly sisters. Words come that their grandmother’s ALF (assisted living facility) has lost all control against the virus, and the residents are no longer safe. It sounds like a snippet from DAWN OF THE DEAD as Jamie and Blake as their grandmother who is in charge she responds, “COVID is in charge now!.” (Cue an uproar of digital laughter.) This kind of dark humor is bounced off the sisters’ nearly deranged dynamic.
With actual stakes involved that don’t revolve around a missed connection or something much more frivolous, Meek and Everton direct the film with a tension that’s worth risking your life. As long as you have your person, everything will be okay. While Jamie’s focus on the never-ending road trip are conversations with a nine-year old student who is “caring” for her classroom’s pet mice. The calls get progressively worse and more absurd, playing into the actors’ best alt comedy instincts. While Everton comes in with dozens of heightened facial expressions that go from 0 to 100 in only a few frames. Call, and Everton gave sisters a distinct voice and knew how to create an instantly funny comedy team.
RECOVERY succeeds where most comedies from the COVID-era (or any year for that matter) do not; this film feels necessary like it was birthed out of a need to exist. While this may be a stark reminder of a nightmare year, we all soon want to forget. There’s an interconnectedness that offers a hilariously comforting cinematic experience.
RECOVERY played at the SXSW film festival and will be released once it finds a distributor.