By: Nick van Dinther
In Boundaries, director Shana Feste tells a story that’s loosely based on her relationship with her father and their shared life experience; which makes it surprising that one of the movie’s biggest setbacks is how cliché it is, and how it lacks realism.
When Jack (Christopher Plummer) is kicked out of his retirement home, his daughter Laura (Vera Farmiga) decides to drive him across the country to go live with her sister. Although the trip provides them a chance to bond, it also gives Jack the opportunity to continue on with his drug dealing business. This is your basic road trip set-up, only with the added quirk of Jack’s occupation. While that works fine within Boundaries, it’s the reliance on other quirks throughout that drags the film down.
Everyone in Boundaries has their own strange attributes – the story is sorely in need of a genuine person. A side character named Stanley (Christopher Lloyd) seems like he’s going to ground the story when he’s introduced, but an unnecessary scene makes him over-the-top. Kristen Schall and Bobby Cannavale also star, but are misused similarly. This becomes increasingly frustrating for the viewer because we can see the recipe for success dangling in front of Feste.
Vera Farmiga is very good though, taking the role as the driving force within Boundaries. She only stretches her character to match her surrounding castmates. It’s nice to see a vulnerable performance from her, and it contrasts nicely with her co-lead. Christopher Plummer has a lot of fun playing the polar opposite of his daughter. He is a wise-cracking, stubborn man who doesn’t show much love. Unfortunately for us, that attitude rubs off on the storytelling – there isn’t a lot of love or heart to be found in Boundaries. Well, aside from one scene. A beautiful exchange between Jack and Stanley’s mentally challenged son is easily the most honest moment this film has to offer. Lewis MacDougall, who plays Laura’s son Henry, is still growing as a performer. There are moments when the Pan actor hits his stride, but others when he just feels out of place. He can’t quite seem to connect with Farmiga and Plummer, which is either the fault of poor direction or miscasting.
The script is the biggest culprit for most of the film’s problems; retreading numerous rote stories involving weird characters instead of crafting new ideas. Feste’s formulaic screenplay leaves a lot of unanswered questions, especially when it comes to the history between Jack and Laura – it’s a relationship she barely skims the surface on. As much as this film doesn’t need anymore clichés, a few flashbacks of Jack and Laura would have added more context.
Some movie goers may be compelled by the performances in this character-driven film. However, the rest of Boundaries never lives up to those key actors; leaving a lot to be desired.
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Nick van Dinther: @NickVanDinther