The Movie Waffler Tribeca 2022 Review - IN HER NAME | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca 2022 Review - IN HER NAME

in her name review
Two estranged sisters are reunited by their father's illness.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sarah Carter

Starring: Ciera Danielle, Erin Hammond, Philippe Caland, Charlie Farrell, Nyambi Nyambi, James Aaron Oliver

in her name poster

Stories of estranged family members renewing their bonds have been a cliché in American indie cinema for the last couple of decades, stretching back to Kenneth Lonergan's debut You Can Count on Me. You'll find a few of these narratives padding practically every film festival, and they can often tend to blur together. What generally distinguishes such films are the performances, and you can see why actors are attracted to such stories that allow them to run the gamut of emotions.

Aside from its unique backdrop of the Los Angeles arts scene, what makes actress Sarah Carter's directorial debut In Her Name stand out is the central performance from Ciera Danielle, an actress whose CV consists mostly of appearances in Christmas themed TV movies. Come to think of it, those movies often share similar narratives to indie dramas, as they're often focussed on a family reuniting, just, you know, at Christmas time. Perhaps that's why Danielle seems like such a natural fit here.

in her name review

Danielle plays Fiona, a thirtysomething Minnesota housewife who travels to her childhood home in Los Angeles to confront her ailing father Marv (Philippe Caland), an acclaimed artist, over the property tax bills she's been paying for the past few years. Fiona hasn't seen her father - or her sister Freya (Erin Hammond), who has been taking care of him – for four years, so it's no surprise that they don’t take too kindly to her somewhat ill-timed proposal to sell the house.

This is a family that was split many years ago, and depending on whom you believe, it was torn apart either by Marv's philandering or his wife's mental health issues. Freya stayed with Marv while Fiona left with her mother, and a line was immediately drawn which Fiona has rarely crossed.

in her name review

We know exactly how this story will play out, so it's no surprise to see the two sisters bonding and reconnecting despite their differences. What is surprising is how disinterested Carter seems in mining the initial animosity between the pair. The sort of bickering you expect between the sisters is dispensed with almost immediately as the two become friends, which makes you then assume the story will be about Fiona reconnecting with her father. But that's not really the case, as Marv is oddly sidelined in this story despite his impending death providing the central narrative thrust.

Thanks largely to Danielle's charming performance - going from uptight, unhappy soccer mom to embracing the California hippy lifestyle in her own awkward way – it's fun to hang out with Fiona and Freya, but that notable lack of conflict means we never quite get pulled into the drama. Fiona drops her prim and proper façade all too easily, giving in to the lecherous demands of her father's creepy artist protégé (James Aaron Oliver), reaching the summit of her character arc far too early in the film.

in her name review

In Her Name's portrayal of the L.A. arts world feels as though it's mocking the scene, populated as it is by the sort of beatniks you find in movies like Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood and the Tony Hancock vehicle The Rebel. But Hammond is herself an L.A. based artist, so it seems unlikely that this was the intention. Perhaps, much like how they say you can't make a war movie without making war look exciting, you can't portray the arts world without parodying it.

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