With only two features under their belt, married filmmakers Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart have demonstrated that a story can be singlehandedly developed on a unique and personal dynamic between two characters. While their debut indie I Put A Hit On You may have fizzled after liftoff, their sophomore effort Suze shows growth in all the right areas; resulting in an absolute crowd-pleasing charmer.

Saturday Night Live alum Michaela Watkins (You Hurt My Feelings) plays Susan, an empty nester who, despite trying to support her daughter’s sudden decision to move away for university, struggles with this new absence. Susan stays in touch with freshman Brooke (former Degrassi student Sara Waisglass, also of Mary Goes Round), but the transition is still tough. Also longing for Brooke is Gage (The Class’ Charlie Gillespie), her flighty ex-beau who feels so blindsided by their breakup that he attempts to throw himself from the town’s water tower. Brooke is worried, and Gage’s disconnected father Rick (Aaron Ashmore, reuniting with Clark and Stewart) shows hardly any concern for his son. This places Susan (who Gage refers to as the titular nickname) in a peculiar situation. While she can’t stand Gage either, she’s inclined to help. While he recovers from his incident, Gage and Susan discover sympathy for each other, leading to unconventional respect for each other and an unexpected friendship.

The short-lived arc Susan experiences regarding her regretful assumptions towards Gage is familiar for Suze’s writers/directors. In I Put A Hit On You, a dark comedy about a frustrated woman who hastily hires a hitman to “take out” her partner after a proposal gone wrong, the self-realization for judgemental actions comes quick when consequences come into play. By grounding the material in more relatable scenarios involving a range of personalities, Clark and Stewart find more longevity with their central push-pull relationship. Their writing is more character-driven but, by doing so, the filmmakers find more opportunities to find humour and compassion in conversations. The movie also benefits from how great of a pair Watkins and Gillespie make, as the actors find special chemistry between Gage’s carefree attitude and Susan’s painstaking patience. Once the pieces are in place, Suze maintains its good groove and effortlessly coasts from one scene to another.

Clark and Stewart even find a way to subvert the audience’s expectations with a well-executed confrontation between Watkins and Waisglass towards the end of the movie. The exchange moulds Brooke into a different type of character, proposing a late challenge for Waisglass who nevertheless rises to the occasion, but it’s an evolution that ultimately adds more history to the mother-daughter relationship that will carry outside of this story.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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