I’m not someone who has a Hallmark relationship with my family, but that has never stopped me from trying. I recently made the life choice to spend a month-long portion of my summer hoping to reconnect with my roots but instead finding myself face-to-face with the basis of my deepest insecurities. So while sitting on the couch in my childhood home, with a pounding headache and a sea of regrets, being offered an opportunity to watch A Reason, a film directed by out writer/director Dominique Schilling, about Serena (Magda Aponowicz), a distraught young misfit, and Nathan (Nick Eversman), her controlling older brother, being forced to endure a dreaded family gathering at the house of their elderly Aunt Irene sounded like just what the doctor ordered.
A little bit The Secret Garden, a little bit Ordinary People and a smidge Rachel Getting Married, A Reason tells a story of the harsh realities of family cohesion, or lack there of, starting as Serena and Nathan pull up to their great Aunt Irene’s house for the reading of her will, questioning whether their mother would approve of their decision to be there. Nathan’s response: “No. But then again, do we approve of what she thinks?” sets the theme of the film in action, being that we are often most critical of those we’re closest to.
The familial relationships and stories unfold gradually as their older brother Chris, his wife, Bianca, and eventually, Irene, welcome the siblings into Irene’s home. Having raised the three siblings’ mother as her own, Irene is an elegant matriarch who relies on old-fashioned values and prejudices to decide who and how to love. With the obvious absence of the children’s mother, she shows her acceptance and love through the manipulation of who gets her inheritance. The entire film takes place over a weekend, as the two younger siblings fight Bianca for her portion of the will, ultimately backstabbing each other, and fleshing out where their true allegiances lie.
As the protagonist, Serena is a 20-something lesbian who has yet to discover her own identity. Suffering continued emotional abuse from her overbearing older brother throughout the film, within the first few moments after arriving she is asked by Bianca to “keep the peace” by covering up the scars on her wrist from her recent suicide attempt; the first instance of many where she is shamed for her despair. Enabling her insecurities, Serena takes the brunt of the families inappropriately displaced anger; at one point being accused by Irene of becoming a lesbian because of abuse she suffered at the hand of her father.
Referred to as a “suicidal lesbian,” the archetype of troubled black sheep equating to being queer is tired, but in the case of A Reason the through line of finding strength and speaking up through emotional abuse wins out. One of the most poignant moments of the film was when Serena’s mother, Annabelle, shows up. Expecting her to be as cruel as the rest of the family, she instead tells her daughter that she’s proud of the fact that her child is gay.
Although often times melodramatic, A Reason perfectly captures the complexities of disconnected families, a dynamic that is often times hard capture as genuine. With emotions running high, the fighting and friction eventually give way to a healing and strengthening of their bonds as they find common ground, bringing them closer together. As a character, Serena’s evolution symbolizes a number of life lessons, most importantly one that encourages young women to find their voice and be heard.
The film is currently hitting the film festival circuit and has already landed Marion Ross an award for “Best Supporting Actress” at the Hoboken International Film Festival for her roll as Aunt Irene.
A Reason is now playing at select film festivals. Visit areasonthemovie.com for screenings near you.