The Reception (review)
Filmmaker John G. Young won festival awards with his first film, Parallel Sons, but he was having a helluva time getting his second film produced. So finally he decided to do it himself, and shot The Reception in eight days, in just a few locations, for $5,000. In most cases, that’d be a disclaimer, a reason to grade the resulting film on a curve. Not so here. This is an extraordinary film, one that looks as if it were produced on a hundred times the budget, and one that — most importantly — puts the greatest emphasis and care into the one aspect that no budget in the megamillions could have fixed: the script. At once warmly human and coldly observant of the cruel things we do to one another in the name of love, Young’s script embraces the paradoxes of our behavior in the way that mirrors the tolerances we allow for the people we care about… while simultaneously chastising us for taking advantage of the tolerance of those who care about us. On the surface, it’s a simple tale of lonely Jeanette (Pamela Stewart), who lives in a country farmhouse with her gay, husband-in-name-only Martin (Wayne Lamont Sims), an artist. When Jeanette’s estranged daughter, Sierra (Margaret Burkwit), shows up for an unexpected visit, she brings along Andrew (Darien Sills-Evans), her new husband, and this stirs up more bad, long-buried feelings, and more secret longings, in more people than you’d expect. The cast, a mixed group of acting veterans and newcomers, is amazing — on this kind of budget, which probably did not allow for the cast to be paid, a desperate director usually gets what he pays for. But the performances here are complex, nuanced, and highly intriguing. This would have been a terrific film in any event, but the constraints under which it was produced elevate Young’s achievement into rarefied realms, and turn it into an object lesson in focused filmmaker that Hollywood desperately needs to hear.