Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 film The Big Chill is often credited with starting the middle-aged-friends-reunite-over-a-weekend subgenre (although more ardent cinephiles will likely grant 1980’s Return of the Secaucus 7 that honour). It seems fitting, if not slightly belated, that some of BC’s finest character actors (and one bankable American star) would gather on the most scenic and overpriced real estate west coast of British Columbia has to offer and take stock of their lives in Laura Adkin’s feature directing debut Re: Uniting.

Just a ferry ride or charter boat away from Vancouver, Bowen Island is home to Rachel (Michelle Harrison) and her family including artist husband Michael (Jesse L. Martin). For the first time in many years, they have gotten the whole college gang back together including jaded neurosurgeon Natalie (Carmen Moore), handsome sportscaster Collin (Roger Cross), Colin’s loose-cannon manager Danny (David Lewis), and exhausted soccer mom Carrie (Bronwen Smith).

It looks to be a fun weekend of drinking, pot smoking and impromptu ocean-swimming, but when one of the group reveals that they have a terminal condition and have decided to end their life via medical assistance, the inevitable cracks between the longtime friends soon rear their ugly heads as secrest are divulged, bonds are tested, and tears inevitably flow both on the screen and in the auditorium.

Summoning the energy of a tightly-wound stage production, Re: Uniting puts both its cast and audience through an emotional wringer with nary a drop left to spare. Most of the cast are called upon to do far more than the day player roles most audiences are accustomed to seeing them in, with Lewis and Smith both doing some particularly heavy lifting. The issue of medically-assisted dying is treated with the appropriate gravitas and care, but like the characters, you still won’t be fully ready for the pivotal scene where (spoiler alert) it is carried out.

The film is artfully lensed by ace BC cinematographer Stirling Bancroft, making the most of the province’s natural beauty, especially in the summertime and the whole thing feels appropriately paced and set up. The only instance where I find it necessary to dock any points is a rather bewildering disregard for continuity involving several minutes of nighttime scenes, followed by a sunset sequence, and then to the next morning. It was jarring enough to take me out of the story for a moment or two.

On a personal note, I feel compelled to mention that I was acquainted with Adkin in the past. We had met at an Edmonton International Film Festival afterparty in 2012 for a film that she had featured in, It’s a Disaster. We connected briefly when I moved, but lost touch over the years. I bring this up because I was unaware of her directorial ambitions and am suitably impressed at the progress of her journey.

Re: Uniting leaves it all on the table, a load that may be too heavy for those looking for transient entertainment. But for those seeking a more substantial dramatic meal, Adkin’s feature will leave you wanting seconds from an auteur with a promising future behind the camera. Recommended.




Re: Uniting is currently screening in theatres across in BC and Ontario

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