We’re at SXSW… kind of! The event is taking place virtually this year so while we’re all watching movies online we’re still bringing you coverage of the best film festival of the year. Check out all of our SXSW 2021 coverage.
Recovery was hilarious, and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s just the comedy we need after a truly awful year and I laughed so much. Sisters Blake (Mallory Everton) and Jamie (Whitney Call) have big plans: it’s Jamie’s 30th birthday, and life is going really, really well for Blake. That is, until Covid hits. Hearing that their grandma is trapped in her care home in Washington, the sisters pack their bags and hit the road to rescue her from an outbreak.
Director: Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek
Release date: March 17, 2021 (SXSW)
Rating: Not yet rated
There’s so much I want to say about Recovery, but I need to start by addressing the madness of making a comedy in a pandemic. It’s been a tragic year in so many ways. As someone who has lost loved ones to the virus, it’s not something I take lightly, nor do many others when thinking about the scale of the crisis. But, if you will believe it, this comedy somehow solidified the feeling of collective confusion and anxiety and brought it out into a cathartic release of a comedy, helping to shake off some of the horrors of the last year.
The sisters’ lives are fun and bright until that fateful day, March 23, 2020, when it felt like time stopped. The film depicts the shift with a jump cut from raucous party to empty apartment where the sisters sit together, watching the news, depressed. If we can remember back that far, it’s exactly the same emotion millions of us were experiencing.
I’m glad this film was made because there are so many things about the start of the Covid era that I had forgotten. Sanitising grocery bags, wearing disposable gloves everywhere, changing clothes for quarantine after a trip to the supermarket, the lack of flour. Video calls and news consumption suddenly exploded; roads became quieter and schools closed. For inseparable sisters Blake and Jamie, family is the most important thing and so they’ll do anything to protect their grandma.
I love that it dealt with the tension between families and the stress of having different views of the situation. Although the girls are conscientious and take all the necessary precautions, video calls with their eldest sister Erin tell a different story. Unlike the girls, she’s completely oblivious to the situation, taking a cruise even after the CDC guidelines are released, criticising anyone who wears a mask, constantly self-absorbed and unable to think about anyone else’s welfare. If we’ve forgotten (or suppressed) these cruelties, we’re reminded that this pandemic has been exacerbated by idiots who refuse to believe it has anything to do with them. Erin’s character is exaggerated for comedic effect though, and it’s impossible not to laugh because she’s literally just a parody of herself.
The road trip from Albuquerque to Washington is a delight to watch, and the directors and writers cite Locke, The Trip and Booksmart as big inspirations (they visibly channel their inner Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever). But whether or not they had used any film as an influence, the film feels so real because of Everton’s and Call’s real-life friendship. Both from comedy backgrounds, the two actors have also been best friends since the age of 9. The pair make such a great comedy duo, their conversations are so prosaic, it’s as if they’ve just switched on a camera and gone wild. I adored it.
It wouldn’t be a road movie, though, without a host of weird and wonderful characters along the way. Their sister Erin has sold their grandmother’s dog to a random hillbilly who tried to breed him with his poodle; the girls look on in disgust and horror as they try to retrieve some of their grandmother’s possessions. Blake tries to reconnect with a boy named Scott after a pre-pandemic Tinder date, with varying degrees of success. Jamie is both amused and harassed by a parent from the school where she teaches; an argument about class mice ensues. All these beautiful, insane elements come together to create a fantastic comedy that perfectly captures the chaos of the year.
In interviews, Everton and Call relate the story of Recovery’s production and how they constantly had to keep to timings and use every moment in case their operation was shut down because of the pandemic. They were notoriously careful with their small crew, creating storylines that could play out virtually over videocalls so that they could involve fewer people. Some of the nightmare remains, though, and a series of nightmares that Blake wakes up from in the car one night just shows the latent fear and anxiety everyone has experienced. In the end, they were able to pull off the production in full, no frills, just reality and a bit of comedy, and it’s brilliant.
I’m excited, too, that it’s such a strong female-led narrative. Aside from secondary characters, the main throughline is about the girls’ journey to rescue their grandmother. They have time for reflection and, while mostly keeping each others’ heads high, they’re also there for each other at low points, when the film takes on a more sombre tone. It’s not for long though, and we know that their brilliant friendship is going to last. I’m not sure I have too much criticism for this film, either. There couldn’t have been much more talk about family or care homes without it becoming social commentary. With such a simple, relatable storyline and laugh-a-minute gags, it’s just an all-round good time.
I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a film as much as Recovery this whole year. For something that could at a first glance seem to trivialise the crisis we’ve endured this year, I like to think it served the purpose that old comedies did during wartimes: keeping up morale, lampooning threats, and lifting spirits. Oh, and reminding you to wear a mask. Deodorant optional.