In Our Nature: Savannah Film Festival Review

In Our Nature Jena Malone - H 2012
2012 by Great Barrington, LLC

In Our Nature Jena Malone - H 2012

Beautifully observed characterizations and fine performances enliven this sometimes static drama about an unexpected family reunion.

A warring father and son are forced to spend a weekend together in Brian Savelson's well-cast indie drama.

A quiet, nearly plot-free drama enlivened by beautifully nuanced performances by its four-person leading ensemble, In Our Nature depicts familiar dysfunctional family dynamics with a welcome lack of melodrama. Centering on a painful weekend endured by two couples including an estranged father and son, writer/director Brian Savelson’s film features the sort of astute, well-observed characterizations that lift it above the indie pack.

Young couple Seth (Zach Gilford, of Friday Night Lights) and Andie (Jena Malone) travel to an upstate New York vacation house that has been in Seth’s family for years for what they assume will be an isolated romantic getaway. Imagine their surprise, then, when Zach’s father Gil (John Slattery) shows up unexpectedly with his much younger girlfriend Vicky (Gabrielle Union), whose very existence was unknown to Seth.

PHOTOS: Exclusive 'In Our Nature' Still Shots

After some awkward debate as to who should stay and who should leave, the foursome finally reluctantly agree to share the house for the weekend, with the two women serving as peacemakers for the warring father and son whose tensions clearly go way back. Type A-personality Gil has clearly been less than an attentive father to his sensitive musician son, and neither seems inclined to address their myriad personal issues.

Blending comedic elements -- there are very funny scenes involving the repressed Gil's finally loosening up after he smokes some pot with the free-spirited Andie, and a hungry bear wandering into the well-stocked kitchen -- and sensitive family drama, the film relies more on quietly observed moments than intense confrontations. Such dramatic revelations as Vicky’s unannounced pregnancy are carefully balanced with quieter, character-revealing scenes like Seth and Vicky’s getting to know each other while hanging out in his old tree house and Gil proudly showing off his kayaking prowess.

The lack of dramatic development sometimes makes the film seem longer than it actually is. But the talented performers deliver such well-calibrated performances that one becomes caught up in their characters’ complex emotional dynamics. Slattery (Mad Men), an expert at playing uptight men, brings welcome doses of humor to his intense portrayal; Union is luminous as his long-suffering girlfriend, and Gilford and Malone are appealing as the frisky young couple whose relationship has its own tensions. Adding to the quietly Chekhovian atmosphere is the expert cinematography by Jeremy Saulnier that captures the upstate New York locations in all their natural beauty.

Cinedigm Entertainment Group.

Production: Film Science.

Cast: Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery, Gabrielle Union, David Ilku, Lola Cook.

Director/screenwriter: Brian Savelson.

Producers: Anish Savjani, Vincent Savino, Brian Savelson.

Executive producers: Susan Bianchi, Brian Savelson, Rajen Savjani, James Black, Mark Dalton, Kurt Dalton, Todd Kessler, James Marciano, Jeremy Mindich.

Director of photography: Jeremy Saulnier.

Editors: Kate Abernathy, Annette Davey.

Composer: Jeff Grace.

Production designer: Russell Barnes.

Costume designer: Anney Perrine.

Not rated, 103 min.