We Need To Do Something

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

We Need To Do Something
"Something extra is needed and fortunately this film has that."

One bathroom. Four people, all members of the same family. One tremendous storm. Several days of captivity during which their attitudes to one another will undergo a permanent change - if, indeed, they survive.

Max Booth III's novella, which he adapted for this film, was written before the Covid-19 pandemic, yet the experience of lockdown has inevitable informed this film, which was shot under pandemic conditions with strict safety requirements for the small cast and crew. Whilst scenarios of this type have always been around in fiction they are now subject to much more intense and better informed scrutiny. The effect is rather like that which the Moon landings had on cinematic depictions of astronauts visiting other worlds. It is not enough just to watch people lose their tempers or see secrets spill out under pressure - this either comes across as unrealistic or as too familiar to be of interest. Something extra is needed and fortunately this film has that in the character of Melissa (Sierra McCormick).

From the moment the family holes up in their small pink-tiled room, prepared for what they think will be a scary but brief experience without any major risks, Sierra is frantic to establish the whereabouts of her girlfriend Amy (Lisette Alexis). Her father chides her about this, telling her she's making a fuss over nothing, which may be a reasonable position to take (he's assuming that Amy has bunkered down too) but reflects ignorance of the intensity of his daughter's attachment. He seems to think that Amy is just another friend. Has Melissa been afraid to say otherwise?

One of the nastiest things about homophobia is the ease with which it is internalised, the damage it does from the inside. This film made an interesting addition to the Outfest 2021 line-up, dealing as it does with the way that Melissa's feelings o guilt about her sexuality seem to spill over into other areas of life. Whilst her whole family is trapped in the bathroom, she's trapped in the kind of society that won't make room for her, and if one grows up in a place where gay people are frequently blamed for things like floods and hurricanes, it must be all too easy to absorb some of that belief. Under pressure, she tries to confess, but her parents, both concerned with the immediate crisis, once again dismiss her.

There's more to it, as the film gradually reveals in a series of flashbacks, with Amy having laid claim to a different kind of outsider status and, in the process, drawn Melissa into a genuinely serious transgression. It's difficult to know, as the film teases us with this but never reaches any firm conclusions - the uncertainty is the point. Likewise the uncertainty over exactly what is going on beyond the bathroom door, which has been jammed shut by a fallen tree. When the hours tick past and nobody comes to help, the family speculate as to whether it was just a storm or some larger calamity. Dad (Pat Healy), an increasingly dysfunctional alcoholic, begins to throw himself around and scream like a freshly caged baboon. Mom (an impressive Vinessa Shaw) tries to keep everybody calm and reassure Melissa's little brother (John James Cronin).

What could have been a much more powerful drama is overplayed, relying on the introduction of fresh external threats rather than more fully exploring the characters. Afraid to reveal too much, Booth winds up revealing too little, so that the tension eventually dissipates into irritation and only Shaw's capacity to evince trauma can save the day. Along the way, however, there's an interesting exploration of different kinds of isolation and how various family members' past experience of living with fear has shaped them.

Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2021
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We Need To Do Something packshot
Trapped inside their bathroom for days after a tornado ravages their home, a family of four struggles to keep their composure. That’s nothing, however, compared to what’s coming for them beyond the bathroom’s walls.

Director: Sean King O'Grady

Writer: Max Booth III

Starring: Sierra McCormick, Vinessa Shaw, Pat Healy, Lisette Alexis, John James Cronin

Year: 2021

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US


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