SXSW 2012 Review - "In Our Nature" (Strong Performances & Camera Work, But Ultimately Too Familiar)

Reviews
by Tambay A. Obenson
March 11, 2012 3:10 AM
7 Comments
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Not a lot I was particularly moved by here; and, to be frank, my sole reason for seeing the film was due to Gabrielle Union's (though mostly supporting) presence in it, so I'll make this one short and sweet.

The setup in brief: a scheduling mistake leads to an estranged father and son sharing a vacation home with their respective girlfriends; as you'd expect, collisions ensue, primarily between father and son.

Union costars in this indie dramedy alongside Jena Malone, Zach Gilford and John Slattery, and it's directed by Brian Savelson, from his own screenplay.

A film like In Our Nature is exactly the type of film I’d expect to see at top tier independent film festivals like Sundance and SXSW; and that’s also exactly what the (or maybe rather my) quarrel with the film is. It’s exactly the kind of film I’d expect to see, and so there’s little about it that surprises.

A 1-location, 4-character relationship drama is essentially how I’d sum it up; one that, as far as I’m concerned, does very little to spice up this rather pedestrian narrative; except maybe the interracial pairing of one half of a pair of couples played by Gabrielle Union and John Slattery from Mad Men. Although the fact that Union’s character is black really has no bearing on the film’s plot. It’s "post-racial" in that sense, and this writer actually appreciated that aspect of the film.

It's maybe the one noticeable characteristic of the film that I'd say was a refreshing switch.

However, much of the rest of it felt all-too familiar and thus ultimately uninteresting to me.

The performances from the starring 4 actors had to be one of the film’s strongest arguments in its favor, and I’d say were what kept me engaged when I wasn't looking down at my watch. I didn’t stay for the Q&A session that followed, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the director revealed that a healthy portion of the film wasn’t rigidly scripted, with the actors given the space to really become the characters they play (characters that may not be so unlike who they themselves are in real life), incorporating improvisational tactics.

It’s the kind of film whose success relies heavily on how much the audience believes these actors are the characters they portray, and the director is obviously smart enough to realize that importance, as his actors deliver very naturalistic performances; if only there was a comparatively compelling, riskier narrative to compliment.

Ultimately, despite a shouting match or two or three, it’s a quiet, languidly-paced, well-photographed (thanks in part to its vast, secluded, leafy cabin in the woods location) character-driven drama with bits and pieces of humor scattered about that will test the patience of some.

There are the occasional, almost too methodically-timed dramatic jolts meant to shake up and advance the story that could have been much less apparent in their intent.

Slightly different packaging, but really, you’ve seen this all before. It's a film that would've been seen to have more of an edge a decade ago.

Watch its trailer below:

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7 Comments

  • BluTopaz | March 11, 2012 12:49 PMReply

    In a weird way I think it's a good thing to see Black actresses in mainstream (or non-Black) films that tread familiar, family relationshop territory.

  • Nikki | March 11, 2012 12:42 PMReply

    I'm sorry, but Gabrielle may be beautiful but she isn't a great actress.

  • Orville | March 11, 2012 11:31 AMReply

    I am thrilled Gabrielle Union got a part in this film. I really happy Gabrielle is in this kind of a film. It is independent and it reminds me of her 2005 breakthrough performance in Neo Ned. Gabrielle is a talented actress and the more mainstream films she gets the better.

    I really wish Gabrielle would do more films like In Our Nature than those Tyler Perry movies. She's so talented and deserves higher profile roles. I think it is great that the interracial relationship aspect of the film wasn't explored. Haven't we all gotten beyond that? What about the age difference between Gabrielle and John Slattery's character?

  • Tamara | March 12, 2012 1:18 PM

    Neo Ned was her breakthrough performance? Huh, I didn't know that. I was really rooting for her in that role but I think I came to expect too much of the movie overall---which was terrible. Interesting premise but execution wasn't up to par.

  • Gina | March 11, 2012 9:06 AMReply

    I did stay for the Q&A and he and Gabrielle didn't indicate that there was a great deal of ad libbing. He did say that he took a great deal of input from Gabrielle. He also indicated that the did a massive amount of preproduction in order to get it shot in 18 days.

    Yes, the film was a bit slow at times, but it actually could have been MORE predictable, the elements of suspense didn't necessary end in the way you thought they would.

    I never quite grasped just how much film scores assist in the pacing of a movie until seeing this and The Last Fall. It was great to hear the sounds of nature, but a few dramatic strains of a violin might have helped it along.

  • noel | March 11, 2012 7:20 AMReply

    Interesting review tambay.

  • Melissa | March 11, 2012 6:19 AMReply

    Thanks for the review Tambay!!

    p.s are you still looking for African-based writers, or not?
    Anyways I'd love to check out Gabrielle Union in this!

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