Suicide Kale


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Suicide Kale
"A film about people with whom I have very little in common drew me in and made me laugh."

Suicide Kale? Is that even a thing?

It was certainly an interesting journey. But it took time, because to begin with I found myself as much outside of this film as I suspect it is possible to be. For I am not, despite my best efforts to the contrary, a young queer lesbian vegan with a mortgage and two cars inhabiting the sunny suburbia of southern California.

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This left me at something of a disadvantage, both emotionally and tonally, as Suicide Kale picks up and distills the essence of a very particular culture, time and place. I was tempted to jump ship but I persevered and in the end, the staying was definitely worth it.

This is a film about a conversation: a lunch time conversation, as newly together Jasmine (Brittani Nichols) and Penny (Lindsay Hicks) visit Jasmine's friends Billie (Jasika Nicole) and Jordan (Brianna Baker), who have been partners for five years and are now settling down to married life. The set-up – new couple meets old – is established from the off, and over a series of highly introspective exchanges, the situational dynamics are deftly established.

On the one hand, as Jordan and Billie spar over whether Jordan ever really wanted to settle down, the question that almost every couple in a similarly long term relationships must have asked: can it last? On the other, as Penny teases Jasmine over her “weirdness” and explains how her own relationships never last, the odd raging doubt as to whether their relationship can last through dessert.

What might have been an interesting comedy of manners, California style, is thrown into disarray from the very start as Jasmine discovers a suicide note that may or may not have been written by Billlie or Jordan, may or may not be a serious indication of self-harming intent. Is it done to mention to your hosts that you suspect one of them may be planning to kill themselves? Should this take place before or after the main course? Or should you wait until you get the chance to have a quiet word in the kitchen with each alone?

What, indeed, would you do?

That's the promising set-up spoilt initially by what plays like an excess of self-obsession: a focus, by the individual players, on analysing – or to my bluff and aged English sensibilities, over-analysing - every last exchange, every word, every nuance. One can easily imagine another film-maker, less sympathetic to the culture, making that the focus of satire: too easily lampooning lines such as: “we can't let our dog steep in that awful, awful energy.”

There is dark comedy here, but it is present in the bigger picture, as well as in the interplay of the characters. In the matching, for instance, of down-to-earth Jasmine with dippy Penny. There is denouement, too, which brings the film together and makes it all worthwhile; a slow start and a sparky finish.

Suicide Kale is loosely-scripted, highly improvised. Not surprisingly, for a film made on zero budget and shot over five days, it is dialogue-heavy, with action limited to locations in and out of the married couple's house and from the back seat of each couple's respective car. This may come over as mildly quirky or, possibly, just slightly irritating, since for several minutes at a time, the camera is focused on the back of the actors' heads.

For all that, a film about people with whom I have very little in common drew me in and made me laugh. If this is what the director (Carly Usdin) and writer (Brittani Nichols) can achieve with so little resource, one eagerly awaits the day when someone is prepared to underwrite them with serious money.

Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2016
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Suicide Kale packshot
A young lesbian couple discover an anonymous suicide note.

Director: Carly Usdin

Writer: Brittani Nichols

Starring: Brianna Baker, Lindsay Hicks, Hayley Huntley, Brittani Nichols, Jasika Nicole

Year: 2015

Runtime: 78 minutes

Country: US


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