Review by Lauren Thomas.
Things I Don’t Understand has joined the ranks of thought provoking films that are proving very popular lately. It follows Violet Kubelick (Molly Ryman) an angry and emotionally troubled graduate who is writing her thesis on the topic of ‘life after death’.
This film has all the cliché moments we come to expect from these types of films. Violet sleeps around, drinks a lot and pushes all the people she loves away. This is all because her sister died when she was young and this has led to her having some serious father and intimacy issues. When her therapist recommends she spend time with terminal cancer patient Sara (Grace Folsom) to help her thesis research, we slowly but surely see Violet’s attitude change.
Kudos to Grace Folsom, she plays the only likeable character that we can relate to. In a touching scene we see Sara opening up about her fear of dying and the injustice of the situation. It is a genuinely moving scene and has the potential to move many people to tears. In it she asks ‘why her?’ and ‘why now?’ For a character that changes Violet’s perspective on life so irrevocably, Sara’s passing is not given nearly enough screen time. It was almost a case of one minute she’s there, one minute she isn’t.
In one of many subplots, we meet her two roommates, Remy (Hugo Dillon) and Gabby (Meissa Hampton) who often spend a lot of time downstairs in the bar drowning their sorrows. Leading us to Parker the bartender (Aaron Mathias) who, as one of the most emotionally unavailable men in New York, Violet naturally falls head over heels in love with. The sense of hopelessness is compounded when it is revealed that the building they live in is for sale and, surprise surprise, all three flatmates are skint.
Violet’s relationship with her therapist, Sara and Parker all help her to grow and ultimately come to accept that there are things she isn’t meant to know and that there are things greater than herself.
This film has at its core a heartfelt and poignant subject and I can’t help but feel that the main characters were just a little too irritating to be able to connect with the film completely. Violet doesn’t come across as troubled, she comes across as an insensitive, self-absorbed brat with daddy issues. If that was the effect the director was going for, Ryman plays it well. Combine this with the frustratingly unreadable and moody bartender and we have a film that focuses too much on whether these two will get together, rather than the whole point of the film, to make the audience ponder their own mortality and the fragility of life.
In the end I was left feeling the film could have been half an hour shorter and would have worked better from a completely different angle. The film would have been a lot more thought provoking and hard hitting from Sara’s point of view. The film takes a very emotional subject and manages to make it quite clinical, which I think is a real shame.
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