Written and Directed by Parker Finn
Starring Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Jessie T. Usher, Rob Morgan, Kal Penn, Robin Weigert, Judy Reyes, Gillian Zinser, Dora Kiss
Smile is one of those films seen half a dozen times in one’s viewing life. It Follows, The Ring and Take Shelter all come to mind in the midst of its 115 minutes. Still. Parker Finn and his lead protagonist Dr. Rose Cotter (Bacon) give the material a freshness and an honesty that makes the minutes fly by as we brace ourselves for the inevitable.
Bacon, who is the daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick, gives as good a performance as either of her parents ever have as the young psychologist in a trauma clinic who has an experience that changes her to the point where she feels a presence pursuing her, while her peers and family think she’s finally cracked.
Dr. Cotter has every reason to be where she is, as a support specialist and patient. As a child, she saw her mother drug herself to death. Now with her recent experience, she finds her grip on reality slipping. She first tries rationalizing the events away, but soon comes to realize, with the help of an old friend, there is something pursuing her that wants to feed on her pain and pass that horror on to someone, anyone else.
That the viewer knows where the story is headed from its opening moments doesn’t take from the skill shown by the Finn and Bacon in making sure we feel every moment. There are some very unique visuals, some skillful tension building and, most importantly, no one in the story treating her like she’s an idiot while exemplifying an ignorance of their own role in the plot. The concerns are all validly expressed by her support structure, even as they crumble away one by one.
There is an examination of how trauma eats away at persons, and never seems to just disappear. Someone’s worst moments always appear to lead to the worst moments of those who bear witness to it. It’s quite remarkable to think that this is the first full length feature of the writer/director. It’s even harder to believe I have never seen or heard of Sosie Bacon until today. It’s pretty obvious that this will not be the last work I see for either of these artists.
(**** out of *****)