Movie Review – Beside Still Waters
Category : Movie Review
Director: Chris Lowell
The Big Chill came out in 1983, the year I was born. In case you haven’t seen it, it has become a film that defines a generation; those who were born in the 60s, grew up in the 70s, and made the early 80s the strange & wild time that it was. The story is pretty simple; a group of friends gather for a funeral and stay for a weekend reunion. The characters are what make the movie, the way in which all their lives intersect, and the bonds that hold them all together. Since that film, a recipe has been developed, a friends-back-together formula that’s easy to make & easy to fall for. We all feel nostalgia after all, in one form or another, and stories that feed on the emotion we hold about the past tend to reel us in without too much of an effort. Beside Still Waters in no different; it even has a gathering after death theme. But that doesn’t stop it from being powerful, honest, and heartbreaking in a way that only Big Chill movies can accomplish.
Daniel’s parents have recently died and he has been forced to sell their beautiful lakeside home. This is difficult for him, of course, as it signifies moving on past the family that he loved, but there’s another reason that it’s hard to part with the old cabin. It was the site of many a wild party back in the day, the hang out spot for the old gang, the place where memories were made. So Daniel invites his friends home for one last party, one last chance at freedom, before the clubhouse is sold to the highest bidder. Tom the sarcastic best friend, Charley the wild girl, James the newly famous actor, Martin & Abby the couple, and finally Olivia the love lost. But Olivia’s brought a guest, her fiance Henry, and this addition changes the temper of the reunion. Daniel can’t deal soberly with the loss of his parents, the hurt of his ex moving on, or the fact that the gang has changed. And so one more wild night ensues, an event that will affect every one of the friends, that will show that the past may be behind them, but that it’s never completely gone.
You can take a successful theme and repurpose it, but that’s no guarantee of success. And this film definitely borrowed a lot from The Big Chill, even adding in the actor character that was so important in the original. But thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly, Beside Still Waters was able to lean heavily on the past while bringing something new as well. That new element may be nothing more than good acting & good chemistry, as the story wasn’t innovative at all, but the actors portraying that story were able to do so with a natural fluidity that made the entire film enjoyable and at the same time emotional. Ryan Eggold as the main character was a solid rock; good-looking, likeable, sad. Beck Bennett, who you might recognize from SNL or those AT&T commercials, was great as the right hand man, the friend who’d do anything to help his buddy. And Britt Lower, the evil ex, was able to make her character believable if not exactly lovable. The ensemble cast came together, took an old story, brought it back to life, and left us with a movie that hurts a little, but in that special, honest way that we actually yearn for.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆