Barrage (2017)

A depressed young woman gets pregnant during a rough patch in life, not even sure who the father is; she tries motherhood but bolts after a couple of years, leaving her own high-strung mother to raise her daughter. A decade later, her life more on track, the mother returns home to reconnect with her daughter by taking her on a weekend camping trip.

From the very premise, you can outline just about every theme and plot point that the movie will hit, and Barrage doesn’t offer many surprises. I know some people never get tired of these kinds of movies — subdued dramas that deal with inter-generational tension and broken-down mother-daughter relationships. If you’re one of those people, this will be right up your alley. If not, you’ll have a forgettable time and move on.

Part of the what makes the movie feel so generic and forgettable is the acting. The film seems to have been cast entirely based on finding three actresses who closely resemble each other rather than character fit. The youngest woman, played by Themis Pauwels, in particular, fails to find an emotional throughline on the character and so plays her flat and guarded.

The film’s biggest issue, though, is certainly its screenplay, which is so by-the-numbers in its dialogue and heavy-handed with its symbolism that I rolled my eyes a few times. Laura Schroeder, the director and co-writer, fails to give any of its characters any spark or reason for us to care.

The only time the movie generates any real dramatic tension is in its climax when it feints at some seriously dark twists before landing back squarely in family interpersonal drama territory. I can’t say it would have been a better movie if it had gone bleaker in tone, but I did appreciate the suspense of the tease.

On the plus side, the movie is very robust technically. The cinematography (by Helene Louvart) is absolutely gorgeous as Lolita Chammeh and Pauwels wander through the woods and by riversides.

And the moments when the movie relaxes and shows some warmth towards its characters are genuinely charming. Alas, they’re small flickers in an otherwise turgid experience.

A final thought: This movie has some of the most jarring sad-pop needle-drops I’ve ever heard. We go from quiet nature sounds to some chanteuse belting out her remorse on a dime, and it made my head spin.

Barrage is certainly not an outright bad film, but it’s largely unremarkable and not worth tracking down unless you really dig generational family dramas.

Is It Good?

Not Very Good (3/8)

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