Recovery (2021) ‘SXSW’ Review: A Charming, Clever COVID Comedy
The initial peak of novel coronavirus throughout the world was a time of acute crisis, danger and a broiling tension unfolded right before our eyes. As the pandemic has begun taking a new form yet again, we couldn’t have asked for a more timely and fascinating film than Recovery (2021) to reflect on the initial days of a rapidly changing world. The plot is quite simple: it’s about two aimless sisters named Jamie and Blake who brave a cross-country road trip to save their grandma from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home.
The primary focus of Recovery is the two sisters and their road trip. However, the most fascinating aspect of the film is its familiarity. The cultural resonance the film achieves through its ingenious writing is quite effective in how it incorporates our initial uncertainties and discords with the threat that’s irking our lives even today. The screenplay is terrific. It masterfully consolidates positivity in an unmistakably dark situation. But the humour is potent and doesn’t feel forced. The delivery of the funny dialogue is extremely impressive- both Whitney Call and Mallory Everton are very real in their matter-of-fact portrayal of Jamie and Blake, two lonely young women with a lovely bond of sisterhood.
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The nasty rich older sister Erin, an irritating and complaining mother Mrs Harper, the handsome Scott and the grandma herself are some interesting and sweet characters Recovery introduces us to, never for once forgetting any of them. Mallory Everton, who has also co-directed the film with fellow cast member Stephen Meeks, has an eye for employing nuance in the most simplistic situations: her treatment is mainstream and quirky but it sits well with the atmosphere and world-building of the film. She has edited the film with Meeks, and they do a wonderful job. I laughed hard at the five-minute nightmare sequence because it was a masterclass in comedic editing. The cinematography is electrifying- Brenna Empey designs her frames with scrupulous quirky touches.
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One must also admire the penetrating set pieces of vehicles and scenic greenery which heighten Recovery’s commitment to entertainment but also, in a way, convey the closeness to the environment which the COVID pandemic developed in the people. There’s a small scene pointed at the plate-beating as a tribute to the healthcare workers. Above all, I enjoyed the film because of the meta-ness which Jamie and Blake carry off in their relationship- the real-life friends warrant a tangible fluidity in their conversations and champion it.
Recovery does mine out its joke from people getting coronavirus or even social distancing. However, it comes off as uncultivated comedic choices rather than exploitative amusement. The film is candid and colourful, but the narrative works without this constant lack of conflict because what we are offered is as satisfying as a wholesome meal. This, however, doesn’t mean it’s a perfect film- there is some stilted writing in the last act and the lack of emotional consistency does more harm than good.
But the sweetness, and the film’s skilful techniques to keep things consistently hilarious, help Recovery to become an important film- a clever COVID comedy and a charming film about sisterhood. Don’t miss it.