'Snapshots': Film Review

Well-acted and affecting.
7/27/2018

Piper Laurie and Brooke Adams appear in Melanie Mayron's drama about a long-ago affair between two married women.

A forbidden romance is sensitively depicted in Snapshots, Melanie Mayron's drama featuring Piper Laurie as an elderly woman who becomes reminded of her past via a vintage camera. That the film's screenplay, co-written by Jan Miller Corran and Katherine Cortez, is based on real-life events adds a poignant element to this indie feature benefiting from excellent performances by its largely female cast.

The film begins with a reunion of three generations of family members at a lakeside house, including 85-year-old Rose (Laurie), her daughter Patty (Brooke Adams) and her granddaughter Allison (Emily Baldoni). There's considerable tension between Patty, heavily drinking since the death of her husband who was having an affair with his secretary, and Allison, secretly pregnant and wondering if she's still in love with her spouse.

When Allison presents her grandmother with Rose's old Brownie camera Allison's recently found, the gift unleashes a flood of memories. The action shifts many decades earlier to the 1960s, when the young newlywed Rose (Shannon Collis) is vacationing during the summer at a lakeside house with her husband, Joe (Max Adler). There she meets Louise (Emily Goss), a photographer living nearby with her husband, Zee (Brett Dier).

It doesn't take long for Louise to make known her romantic feelings for Rose, who finds herself irresistibly drawn to the free-spirited bohemian. Although initially far too conventional and reserved to reciprocate, Rose eventually throws caution to the wind and embarks on a torrid affair, conducted behind both husbands' backs. The secret relationship lasts for years, with Louise at one point pressing Rose to leave her husband and move away with her to some city where they could forge a life together.

The film is much stronger in the flashback sections than the present-day interludes, although both are occasionally marred by clunky, cliched dialogue. When Louise first comes on to her physically, the flustered Rose asks, "What are you doing?" "What I've wanted to do since I first saw you," Louise responds, having apparently seen too many bad romantic movies. At another point, during a discussion of lesbianism, Patty declares, 'I don't like the idea of it, it's gross," as her mother visibly blanches. Not long afterward, Allison confesses that she's having an affair with another woman, a plot element that inevitably feels schematic.

Despite those occasional missteps, Snapshots presents a moving portrait of its central relationship doomed by societal constrictions. The female characters are well-drawn and vibrant, while the men are depicted sympathetically. Collis and Goss deliver affectingly soulful, sensuous performances that vividly convey their characters' passion for each other, while Laurie is quietly touching as the elderly woman who lost the love of her life without ever being able to tell anyone about it.

Mayron infuses the proceedings with a hazy glow that provides a warmly nostalgic atmosphere. And while the pacing can be a little too leisurely at times, it doesn't prevent Snapshots from being a mature, reflective drama that is all the more effective for its restraint.

Production: Three Women in a Box Films
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Cast: Piper Laurie, Brooke Adams, Emily Baldoni, Emily Goss, Shannon Collis, Max Adler, Brett Dier, Cathy DeBuono
Director: Melanie Mayron
Screenwriter: Jan Miller Corran, Katherine Cortez
Producers: Jan Miller Corran, Lee Anne Matusek
Executive producers: Catlin Adams, Denmorlin, Jane Gilmore, Melanie Mayron
Director of photography: Michael Negrin
Production designer: Jeff McLaughlin
Editor: Josh Rifkin
Composer: David Michael Frank
Costume designer: Ileane Metzer

95 min.