Let's be honest.
It's still rare enough for women to get anything resembling equal opportunity in the film industry that when it happens, it's worth celebrating.
What's worth celebrating more?
When We Grow Up, which just picked up the "Hoosier Lens: Best Feature" prize at the 2018 Indy Film fest in Indianapolis, doesn't just have a female director. It doesn't just have a female cinematographer. Oh heck, it doesn't even have just a female screenwriter.
When We Grow Up has an entirely female crew.
That's amazing. That's wonderful. That's worth celebrating. It's also worth celebrating that When We Grow Up is also a damn fine film.
Written by and starring Cathedral High School graduate Grace Hannoy, When We Grow Up is a feature-length comedy/drama that twists the whole coming-of-age narrative by telling a story that is rather straightforward yet immensely involving.
In the film, the death of the family dog sends the matriarch of the Barnes family into an emotional tailspin leading her to put out a call for support from her three adult children, Elijah (Clyde Voce), Maris (Jennifer Tsay), and Louise (Grace Hannoy). When the three arrive back at the homestead for the funeral weekend, they slip back into their childhood roles while struggling to keep up with their real world, very adult circumstances.
While the story that frames When We Grow Up is rather traditional, rest assured that Hannoy's story and Zorinah Juan's direction help the film rise above the expected predictability by tackling difficult subjects not often found in contemporary cinema including racial adoptin issues, the reshaping of what is defined as the American family unit, and sexual intimacy among a mature generation.
The beauty is that When We Grow Up tackles all of these subjects, and all of its story, with uncommon intelligence and sensitivity largely thanks to a terrific ensemble cast that clearly understands and embraces the story and finds the nuances of each of their characters. This is never more evident than it is with Catherine Curtin's stand-out performance as Holly, the grieving matriarch whose entire being radiates authenticity as a woman whose grief has layers and is complicated by a struggling marriage. It's simply an absolutely terrific performance.
The same is true for Grace Hannoy as Louise, embodying a young woman who's figuring out her way and realizing it's not the path she's on yet struggling with how to not disappoint those around her. Likewise, Jennifer Tsay's Maris has recently made a big decision yet hasn't quite figured out how to tell the family, while the eldest child, Elijah, is working with his wife (Lauren Lim Jackson) to pursue adoption with Clyde Voce beautifully portraying the inner and external issues associated with intentionally starting an interracial family.
Katherine Castro's lensing for the film is simply stellar, while Haley Shaw's original music gives the film warmth and energy and heart.
When We Grow Up is one of the true narrative feature highlights of the 2018 Indy Film Fest and was deservedly the recipient of this year's Hoosier Lens - Best Feature Award. While the film's traditional narrative seems to hint at predictability, When We Grow Up tells an involving story brought wonderfully to life by a talented and clearly inspired cast and crew.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic