RECOVERY (SXSW 2021) – Review by Rachel West

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Pandemic-set movies are quickly becoming a dime a dozen, but stars and writers Whitney Call and Mallory Everton bring chemistry and comedy to their COVID road trip Recovery in what is definitely one of the funniest takes in the sub-genre.

Opening in the blissful two weeks before COVID became a thing, sisters and roommates Blake (Everton) and Jamie (Call) are listing all that they want to do in 2020: visit Rome, go to Disneyland, party at Coachella, get fit at the gym and up their Tinder dating game. And if there weren’t enough things to look forward to, “Tom Hanks is healthy, so that’s always a plus,” according to the sisters.

Smash-cut to March and it’s the quarantine world we’re all familiar with, full of doom-scrolling on Twitter, endless newscasts predicting the severity and trajectory of the virus and the days of Lysol-ing everything from the outside world. Lost in their isolation cocoon, mail from their beloved Nana’s nursing home goes unnoticed and by the time they open the letter informing them of a few patients with COVID-19, all Hell has broken loose at the nursing home. As infections rise, the sisters have a plan to drive across country and bring Nana to safety.

What ensues is a 20-hour drive with Everton and Call on-screen for the film’s running time, engaged in conversations that are both deep and laugh-out-loud silly. With the sisters taking turns behind the wheel and solving problems like using snack-sized Ziploc bags at gas stations when they run out of gloves, the comedic duo’s likeable and off-the-charts chemistry is what sells the humour of the story.

These are the girlfriends you have and want more of as they dish on Tinder matches and listen to bad erotic audiobooks. Yes, COVID-19 continues to ravage the U.S. and beyond, but their quick dialogue and slightly absurd rapport ads levity to what is otherwise a dire situation offering a humourous and recognizable respite for viewers.

Co-directors Everton and Stephen Meek take a low-key approach to the film, allowing ample breathing room for the movie’s duo to shine. Their zingers land left and right and will surely earn these real-life friends comparisons to Broad City‘s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. With the bulk of the movie being a road trip in the confines of a car, the weight is on Call and Everton to move the film along at a lively pace, reacting to the audio-only cues on speakerphone a la Locke.

While the on-screen duo seems rooted in our heightened reality, the peripheral characters – their flighty sister on a cruise who doesn’t think the coronavirus is a big deal, Jamie’s the grade 4 student and his mom who love to speed dial and hate the classroom mice she’s left behind, a bizarre dog sitter – are a bit too zany causing a noticeable shift in tone whenever they are encountered. Though the energy noticeably dips in the film’s final act, it is nonetheless an entertaining and engaging reminder that life is still funny even in the middle of a pandemic.

In a sweet ode to friendship, home movies of Call and Everton as tweens acting out stories for the camera roll during the credits. They are definitely a comedic duo we’d be lucky to see more from.

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Rachel West

Rachel West is a Toronto-based producer for ET Canada with a B.A. in Film Studies. A Tomatometer-approved critic, she's a regular contributor to That Shelf. She's interviewed everyone from Michael Fassbender to Miss Piggy and has reported live from TIFF, the SAG Awards, Comic-Con, and the Golden Globes, among other events. Her film writing has appeared in publications including Globalnews.ca, The National Post, Cineplex Magazine, Letterboxd, and more. Find her on Twitter: @rachel_is_here