SOUTH MOUNTAIN – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Back in 1978, director Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman starring Jill Clayburgh showed that a marital break-up could become an awakening and new opportunity for a woman to learn how to rely on herself. It had a distinctly urban feel as events unfolded in Soho art galleries and spacey New York City lofts.

Hilary Brougher’s South Mountain takes a different path in its portrait of a union that is on the brink of dissolution amid the scenic splendor of the Catskill Mountains. The lush green foliage and a garden ripe with fresh produce feels like a kind of paradise away from the world’s hustle and bustle.

Alas, the household’s matriarch Lila will soon discover, as her teen daughters leave for summer activities and her best friend undergoes chemotherapy, that her husband (Scott Cohen) has just had a newborn son with another woman and that he wants to leave his wife. As played by a top-notch Talia Balsam with an air of wistful melancholy and a Mona Lisa smile, Lila goes through several stages of grief – including a regretful try at poisoning her cheating spouse, taking up with an all-too-willing younger man and cleaning out all of the old accumulated stuff to let the new in.

Cameraman Ethan Mass’ serene cinematography does wonders to fill in the emotional spaces, with invading insects becoming a regular theme. In the end, Lila seems to be somewhat at peace even if she has picked up the habit of smoking.

As Gloria Gaynor might say, she will survive.

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Susan Wloszczyna

Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.