Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 2019. Maiden Voyage, RT Features, Walking Tacos. Screenplay by Karen Maine. Cinematography by Todd Antonio Somodevilla. Produced by Eleanor Columbus, Katie Cordeal, Colleen Hammond, Rodrigo Teixeira. Music by Ian Hultquist. Production Design by Sally Levi. Costume Design by Brittany Loar. Film Editing by Jennifer Lee.
Director Karen Maine takes aim at the pain of adolescence and the ridiculousness of conservative religious education, never cruel in her condemnation or broad in her humorous observations in this wonderful comedy. Natalia Dyer is pitch-perfect as a young woman approaching adulthood who is distraught by a terrible rumour going around her Catholic high school that she “tossed a boy’s salad”, the meaning of which she doesn’t even understand. Without her ever having encouraged its circulation, the rumour reaches as far as school leadership and affects her reputation as a student, prompting her to sign up for a religious retreat that she believes will bring closer to God (or, more important, to the authority enjoyed by the popular students who attend it). At the “Kirkos” retreat (a play on the name of a real Kairos program), she arrives with the intention of being dutiful and obedient but is distracted by so many exciting things: the feeling of her cellphone’s vibrations against her groin, the curiosity to look up confusing sexual terms on the camp’s one computer with internet access, the feeling of pressing up against a broom as she watches other students engage in sexual behaviour. She estranges herself from her best friend and risks further ire from her guides with her unintentionally rebellious behaviour, defying the church’s demand that she remain ignorant of the world in order to be deemed morally acceptable; after seeing what some of her fellow students and teachers get up to when they think no one is looking, however, she soon begins to understand that her sins are not unique, she’s just been chosen as an easy target. Maine, who sets this film in the early 2000s (possibly in the spirit of some level of autobiography), manages to make a film of the “we’re all just people” variety that is never condescending and is always wickedly funny, presenting a series of darkly humorous situations that sympathize with Dyer’s innocent curiosity while still sparing plenty of humane sympathy for the people who expect such a high standard from her while unable to provide it themselves. A third-act sequence involving Dyer’s escape to a lesbian bar, is one of the film’s highlights, involving a magnificent performance by Susan Blackwell as a kindly voice sitting confidently atop a motorcycle, who reassures our heroine that things will be okay.