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First Look Review - SPIRAL FARM

spiral farm review
When two outsiders arrive on an isolated intentional community, 17-year old Anahita begins to question her role at home, and what a future out in the world-at-large could be.


Review by Musanna Ahmed

Directed by: Alec Tibaldi

Starring: Piper de Palma, Amanda Plummer, Jade Fusco, Teo Halm, Landen Beattie, Cosimo Fusco

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In an industry-rare act of repelling a nepotistic entry into cinema, Piper de Palma, daughter of the great Brian de Palma, makes her feature debut in this modest indie drama, where the highest production value is her surname. Spiral Farm is a slice-of-life story that’s a little too slight for my liking.

Teenager Anahita (de Palma) lives in an insular commune somewhere in the US, the geographical obfuscation of which lends writer/director Alec Tibaldi a universal sphere in which to centre his themes of family, relationships and coming-of-age. We know she's a bit quirky, a bit different from her fellow inhabitants, as a silent opening scene begins with her doing a random, undoubtedly off-beat dance in the middle of a forest at dawn.

spiral farm review

While her mother Di (Amanda Plummer), her sister Sahaja (Jade Fusco) and her best friend Miracle (Sara Anne) are blissfully disconnected from the wider world after all they’ve experienced (a history hinted at more than explained), Anahita is still on the grid. For one, her choice of music is reggaeton and she drives around listening to Trippie Redd and Famous Dex - perhaps the first ever movie to feature these particular SoundCloud rappers on the soundtrack.

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But anyone coming into Anahita’s physical world would feel out of place. Case in point: Theo (Teo Halm), an outsider brought into the realm by his father Maurizio (Cosimo Fusco), who happens to be Di’s ex. Theo is just a naive youth here for a good time not a long time, avoiding any comfort with the nature-oriented lifestyle. Where he does want to be at ease, though, is in the arms of Anahita. Together, the underlying feeling is one of a life together as city slickers, throwing Anahita’s future at the commune into doubt.

spiral farm review

The tension remains at a low temperature all throughout - there’s a lot of drifting and freedom from conflict in the protagonist’s existential journey. Think something like Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto or Domingo Sotomayor’s Too Late to Die Young. It partly comes from low-budget trappings and Tribaldi’s inexperience as a feature-length dramatist, with just two short film directorial credits behind him (both of which star the same lead actress). And it partly comes from the lack of emotional attachment that Anahita has to anyone except her nephew Ocean (Landen Beattie), for whom she feels a responsibility.

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The best parts of Spiral Farm are the feminist didacts in the commune who know better than Anahita, warning her of impulsively running away with a young man. "There will always be men offering to pay for all your shit and support you,'' says Miracle in an unofficial counselling session with Anahita as Theo’s days approach their end and a big decision has to be made.

spiral farm review

My attention was held entirely by de Palma, who proves to have the chops and screen presence to rival contemporaries such as Helena Howard (Madeline's Madeline) and Camilla Morrone (Mickey and the Bear) but just doesn’t get to utilise them in the same calibre of cinema. Nevertheless, for anyone like myself who’s disillusioned at seeing inexperienced actors fast-tracked to the mainstream through their mum and dad, it’s conceptually appreciable to see Spiral Farm as a showcase for de Palma rather than, say, Antoine Fuqua’s upcoming Scarface remake.

While de Palma’s emotions are emphasised via close-ups in a 1.66 aspect ratio - a format that complements the lovely rural environments - the camera stays a little further back from Teo Halm, but his affability and good looks suggest he's one mainstream film away from reaching the same demographic as Noah Centineo and Timothee Chalamet. You can watch Spiral Farm to say you discovered these budding stars first.

Spiral Farm is in US cinemas December 13th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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