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Burma: SXSW Review

Burma Poster Art - P 2013

The Bottom Line

The familiar family drama leaves viewers wondering whom they should identify with.

Venue

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST, NARRATIVE COMPETITION

Cast

Christopher Abbott, Gaby Hoffmann, Christopher McCann, Dan Bittner

Director-Screenwriter: Carlos Puga

Carlos Puga's debut stars "Girls" actor Christopher Abbott and centers on a family reunion with more attendees than the host expected.

AUSTIN — A buried-secret family drama whose prodigal father is almost as mysterious when the credits roll as when we meet him, Carlos Puga's Burma watches as three adult siblings disagree over whether to allow the man back into their lives. Fest audiences will likely be underwhelmed by the capable but familiar picture, the feature debut for a director best known for MTV's True Life.

Christopher Abbott stars as Christian, an aspiring writer who has been floundering and doing too many drugs since the death of his mother, years ago. But he still honors his annual reunion with siblings Susan (Gaby Hoffman) and Win (Dan Bittner), who gather on Mom's birthday; when his father (Chris McCann) arrives uninvited at his house asking for a ride to the reunion, Christian reluctantly agrees.

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: SXSW: 'Girls's' Christopher Abbott Gets Serious in 'Burma'

Dad flew the coop back while Mom was on her deathbed; after having an affair with a 19-year-old, he left for Burma. Details trickle out in the presence of Christian's old girlfriend Kate (Emily Fleischer), who was invited without his knowledge and had believed both his parents were dead, but it's soon clear that even the siblings don't know the full story.

Though it happily steers clear of histrionics, the film invests most of its energy exploring the resentments harbored by this small family. For most of the time that brothers and sister are hashing out their feelings, Dad's rooting through Mom's old stuff in Susan's storage shed and preparing his big revelation.

The revelation isn't nearly as dramatic as the buildup, though -- and no one seems to realize that there's little reason the truth should have been kept secret in the first place and many reasons it shouldn't have. McCann is convincing as an unconventional Baby Boomer who took his own autonomy more seriously than his children's emotional health; the younger cast members are believable, if not transfixing, as wounded kids with different ways of leaving the past behind.

Production Company: Standard Arts, Calavera USA, Act Zero Films

Cast: Christopher Abbott, Gaby Hoffmann, Christopher McCann, Dan Bittner, Emily Fleischer, Jacinta Puga, Matt McCarthy, Kelly AuCoin

Director-Screenwriter: Carlos Puga

Producers: Brett Potter, Grant Curatola, Jean-Raphael Ambron, E. McCabe Walsh

Executive producers: Andrew Corkin, Alex Schepsman, Susan Shopmaker

Director of photography: Tom Richmond

Production designer: Tara Pavoni

Music: Daniel Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans

Editors: Carlos Puga, Brady Corbet

Sales: Traction Media

No rating, 81 minutes