Here Awhile is a sensitively written and directed piece that is enhanced by two fantastic turns by the Anna Camp and Steven Strait. A careful and thoughtful film.
Anna (Anna Camp) returns home to Portland to reconnect with her estranged brother, Michael (Steven Strait), after 15 years apart. Under the guise of reconnecting. Anna needs her brother’s support to make an important life decision that puts a renewed strain upon their relationship. Forming a kinship with her brother’s partner and neighbour Anna and her girlfriend learn acceptance and try to maximise life.
Here Awhile’s short running time at times hurts the film as relationships between characters are curtailed when an expansion of them would have been required. We are given notice that weeks have gone by at a time throughout the film to allow for time jumps, but in an intimate film such as this, we need to see these relationships grow. For example, Anna’s return under the guise of reconnecting is quickly found out and moved on from. Yet as an audience we need to see this brother and sister reconnect, or show more of the strained relationship.
Anna’s motives are all the more grim than we could expect as cancer has spread throughout her body. She requires something very specific and heartbreaking from her brother who has already had to deal with their fathers terminal illness not long previous.
The same can be said for the relationships with the supporting cast bar Joe Lo Truglio’s Gary who has an astoundingly heartfelt arc). These characters quickly bond, yet they don’t appear to be well bonded on screen. We haven’t seen the work and only the results and as mentioned, this was needed.
Writers Tim True and Csaba Mera have taken a lot of effort to be considerate to the topic. Especially so considering how rarely terminal disease and assisted death is in features. Sadly this effort to the topic causes the characters to be left behind. We learn about the struggles and joys of Anna and Michael. Other than Michael being a great person who wants and enjoys looking after those around him, we don’t really learn too much about him. The same is said for Anna, she is an artist, is creative and lost her family due to being a lesbian, but we never really learn the real Anna. That is a missed opportunity as Here Awhile could have been a strong benchmark of a film, but is held back by not expanding on it’s very capable cast.
From experience, Michael’s breakdown in the bathroom was brilliantly portrayed by Steven Strait and was quite effective as to how those who are there to be a main source of support deal with an imminent death of a close relative. While his switch to acceptance may not ring true to some, it does here as sometimes not everything requires conflict. Straits turn allows for some dimension as he although he has accepted Anna’s decision, he is still grieving for her as she is still alive. This is a performance that could easily be taken for granted as he is truly tremendous here.
Anna Camp’s turn as the terminally ill Anna in Here Awhile has perhaps received some disdain for her not looking “ill” enough. Considering how small the production was. It has been missed that this is a character who is making her fateful decision quite a while before her cancer takes too much of a hold of her. As she states that she does not want to die in a hospital. Which would highlight that although she is terminal. She has not yet reached her final days or weeks, so she still has some ability to “look” healthier. Her speech at the end of the film will hit you. It is because of Camp that you feel that emotional pull. She is so strong and effective in her performance.
At times Here Awhile is an uncomfortable watch, but that is a given considering the topic presented. However there is a lot to take from the film despite the sparsely written characters.
Here Awhile is now available to rent on Digital Platforms through Signature Entertainment.
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