Say When (2014)

Say WhenMegan, 28 (Keira Knightley), is almost indistinguishable from Megan, 17 (Larissa Schmitz). She’s still living with her high-school boyfriend (Mark Webber), still working as a sign-spinner for her father, and still making childish jokes to friends who are now much more concerned with furthering their careers and raising a family than having a laugh. When Anthony proposes at her best friend’s wedding, Megan panics, leaving the party early and going for a late-night drive to clear her head. Outside a local grocery store she meets Annika (Chloe Moretz), an underage girl looking to source alcohol for her close circle of friends. Megan obliges, later calling in the favour and moving into Annika’s father’s house for a week of soul-searching. Craig (Sam Rockwell), curious as to why there is now an adult woman bunking up with his teenage daughter, agrees to let her stay, on the proviso that she stays in the spare bedroom.

Say When — or Laggies, as it seems to be known everywhere else — is the new film from Lynn Shelton, director of Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister. Written by novelist-turned-screenwriter Andrea Seigel, it tells the story of a woman who regresses to childhood when adult life becomes too much. The idea of adults posing as children is nothing new — just look at Never Been Kissed, 21 Jump Street or even Orphan — but Say When is one of the first to play it completely straight. This isn’t a police sting or a murder plot but simply a whim, a vacation, a coping mechanism. Megan does her best to explain herself when Craig pushes for answers but if you’re not willing to accept the premise on face value her attempts to rationalise her behaviors are unlikely to convince you.

Helpfully, Megan’s normal life isn’t particularly interesting, so that once she’s moved in with Annika and Craig you’re so relieved to see the status quo disrupted that you’re quite happy to go along with just about anything. The kids are well-played — Moretz in particular impresses as perhaps the most mature member of her household, while Kaitlyn Dever steals just about every scene she’s in as best friend Misty — but it is Megan and Craig who prove the most compelling. Both Knightley and Rockwell are naturally very likeable actors, and its by virtue of their easy chemistry that the relationship works as well as it does. They counterbalance one another, and Shelton has some fun with this fluidity of maturity — most effectively when Megan and Craig sneak out of the house during one of Annika’s sleepovers for an illicit drink at a nearby bar.

But for the most part it’s the actors themselves that are the biggest draw here and not the characters they’re supposed to be playing. Outside of the central trio very few cast-members are able to overcome the relatively uninspiring material they have been lumbered with, particularly Ellie Kemper who looks completely lost without something witty to say. The film is occasionally amusing — most notably a running gag about spirit guide animals — but nothing that’s going to trouble, let alone tickle your funny bone. You expect Megan to be aimless and confused, but while she eventually tires of her listlessness the narrative remains decidedly inert. Seigel drags Megan to the police station, to the airport and later to prom, but these scenes feel more like pointless detours than necessary developments and Shelton’s direction often feels no more decisive.

As with Begin Again, Say When is further evidence not just of Keira Knightley’s acting abilities but her indie credentials. While she may be able to carry the film, however, she can’t quite rescue it.

2-stars

 

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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