Mary Marie is a sun-warmed and vapory zip budgeter from US debut feature director Alexandra Roxo. It’s not without some missteps, but Roxo and her collaborators create enough substance and emotional apprehension to signal them as promising indie filmmakers with more to prove.

Young adult sisters Mary (Alana Kearns-Green) and Marie (Roxo) return to their old and now empty family homestead after the death of their mother, to say goodbye to the place one last time. Drifting into staying on over the hazy summer, they act out a nostalgic return to their childhood, swimming in the river, stealing pies from window sills, playing dress up and twirling sparklers at dusk.

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While they find much mutual solace in each other’s company, their evident sibling closeness is underscored with an exceptional endearment that borders on incestuous. Hugging and heads on shoulders moves onto sleeping and bathing naked together, amid much fruit-eating and cutaways to the elements of nature around them. Into this languorous swirl of grief, deep emotions and unspoken feelings enters the not exactly rugged but hopeful handyman Peter (Tim Linden). As both Mary and Marie are drawn to him, jealousy starts to bring the sisters’ feelings to a potentially destructive head.

This modest ménage-à-trois is used more originally than its cheesy set up sounds. Peter plays second fiddle as the fulcrum by which Roxo, scripting with fellow lead Kearns-Green, seeks to prise and flex the two siblings and they remain the focus. Their quiet and intimate moments, deliberately held and interrupted to create an unsettling and possibly misdirecting closeness, make tangible the inner world the two have developed over many years. The narrative explores where their boundaries merge, retreat, support and break for independence.

Roxo is helped no end by cinematographer Magela Crosignani, who imbues the simple settings with a balmy, summery glow that harks back to some youthful memory of childhood innocence. While this adds a certain timelessness to the film’s inward gaze, it also ties the sisters to the closing season, the darkening inevitability of their grief and a return to the realities of adulthood. Crosignani scooped an award at the Brooklyn Film Festival for her efforts.

The two leads have worked together for over six years already and are clearly comfortable collaborators. This surely helps them to conjure a convincing, off-kilter relationship with little or no spoken words, yet they jab themselves in the ribs with dialogue that tries to tie their episodes together. Heavy with exposition that spells out the segues, it frustratingly undermines the sensibility and intensity that they’re trying to maintain. This means that the changing up of gears for the brooding denouement doesn’t convince. When the lackadaisical daring of their relationship then finally opts for a rather glib deus ex machina, we’re left almost as bemused and frustrated as Peter. If not a little bit cheated as well.

It’s tempting perhaps to see Roxo’s conclusion as, if anything, an affirmation of her filmmaking partnership with Kearns-Green and an acknowledgement of the difficulties and tensions shared therein. Despite its missteps, there is substance in Mary Marie and indie dauntlessness in conjuring something from so little.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2012
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Two sisters' love for one another becomes destructive.
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Director: Alexandra Roxo

Writer: Alana Kearns-Green, Alexandra Roxo

Starring: Alexandra Roxo, Alana Kearns-Green, Tim Linden, Daniel Munro, Randolph Scott

Year: 2010

Runtime: 80 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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