June Again, writer / director JJ Winlove’s debut feature, is a watchable but largely unconvincing and contrived exploration of dementia, seen through one family’s journey from an initial state of disintegration through to their collectively restorative resurrection.
The plot revolves around the elderly matriarch, June Winton (Noni Hazlehurst) who, at the start of the tale, has been in a care facility for over five years due to the sudden onset of her dementia. This has caused her to all but erase the existence of her entire family from her memory. She does, however, retain some fragmented recollections of a passionate love affair from out of her distant past.
The story jolts into action as June unexpectedly regains total lucidity allowing her to confront the issues her family has encountered during her time away in her internal lost world. Unsure of how long this period of clarity will last, June then goes about her restorative work with a bluntness of approach that is initially very confronting to her loved ones.
Whilst acknowledging the events in the movie are loosely based on Winlove’s own family experiences, and not wanting to downplay in any way the seriousness of the issues the film explores, the situations depicted here are far too briefly drawn, and too hastily brought to their conclusion, for the film’s audience to fully suspend their disbelief and emotionally engage with the characters to any real extent.
Noni Hazlehurst is required to communicate much of her current and mental and emotional state through lingering facial close-ups and subtle changes of gaze and expression. She is only partially successful and these moments become a little uncomfortable to watch in their awkwardness.
Caught in the netherworld between comedy and drama, actors Claudia Karvan and Stephen Curry, who play June’s grown-up kids returned to a state of juvenile helplessness in the face of their mother’s returned domineering presence, never come across as fully drawn characters and therefore are also unconvincing.
Winlove has obviously forgotten the English classroom ‘show don’t tell’ mantra driven into impressionable young writers when they first start producing narratives. In his haste to cram in his numerous subplots he has opted to have the characters often state the obvious which becomes quickly grating for the audience.
The ending is far too neat and predictable, and even the most uncynical of viewers will be only mildly moved by the film’s cloyingly syrupy conclusion.
Ironically, this is a film whose central focus revolves around the concept of memory, yet it is destined to be forgotten pretty quickly.
June Again is screening in cinemas now.