Say When (aka Laggies) movie review: resisting the path

Laggies Say When green light

Charming and off-kilter, this is a rare tale of a young woman struggling with her identity in a way that deals a shock of recognition and never apologizes.
I’m “biast” (pro): really like Keira Knightley; love Lynn Shelton’s movies

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Behold the garden variety Female Fuckup, common in the wild but rarely captured on film, for some reason. Why, it’s almost like no one is even looking for her!

What was I just saying about the need for more women filmmakers? Here’s Exhibit B. Indie director Lynn Shelton (Touchy Feely) and first-time screenwriter Andrea Seigel have crafted a charming, off-kilter little film about a young woman who doesn’t quite know what she wants out of life yet has no guide to the possibilities open to her beyond the traditional track her former high-school pals are on: the important-job, getting-married, and having-kids one. It’s not that 28-year-old Megan (Keira Knightley: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) doesn’t want to grow up, it’s that she doesn’t want to do it the way everyone around her is doing it. She may not even realize what her problem is; here’s another example of women’s discontent that isn’t much talked about in pop culture and doesn’t really have a name. Confused, torn, and upset, she does some pretty stupid things that result in her lying to her boyfriend (Mark Webber: Happy Christmas) and running away for a week to take up with Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz: The Equalizer), whom she met when the teen and her friends asked her to buy them beer. “Reverting to a teenage life is weird,” Annika’s dad notes with the wonderful dry sardonicism of Sam Rockwell (The Way, Way Back), and it is. But Knightley’s usual engaging warmth transforms Megan into a figure most unusual onscreen, and most welcome: a woman struggling with her own identity in a way that deals a shock of recognition, and — even though Megan does have to contend with the hurt feelings her behavior leaves in its wake — never apologizes for her struggle.

Laggies (for some reason shackled with the depressingly generic title Say When in the U.K.) is Shelton’s most mainstream film yet by far; she is probably best known for 2009’s Humpday, a curveball look at male friendship and male sexuality. And I hope it is seen wide and far by women and men, and especially by teenaged girls, if only so that they can hear — from something other than a Disney cartoon — that it’s okay not to want the life you think you’re supposed to want.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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