JUNIPER – Review by Cate Marquis
Charlotte Rampling steals the show as a feisty alcoholic grandmother in the New Zealand cross-generations family drama Juniper. Teenager Sam (George Ferrier) was sent to live at a boarding school by his grieving father Robert (Marton Csokas) when his mother died and he struggles with depression. When his father comes to get the 17-year-old for a school break, Sam is shocked to hear that his father’s alcoholic mother Ruth (Rampling), whom his father always said he hated and whom Sam has never met, has traveled from Britain to New Zealand for what is supposedly just a visit. But Grandmother Ruth drinks gin like a fish, and arrives with a nurse (Edith Poor) and a broken leg that isn’t healing well. Anything but cuddly, Grandmother Ruth was once a famous war photographer and still has money, and Sam’s dad tells him she can help them out of the financial bind they find themselves in since the death of Sam’s mother. But when Robert has to travel to Britain to sort out some problem with the estate, the boy and grandmother are thrown together. The boy is surly and resentful, the grandmother is imperious and demanding, and the two do not hit it off at first. As they spend time together, however, that changes as he gets to know her better and they discover more in common than either suspected. Charlotte Rampling is a joy to watch in this little drama, and although the ending is a bit too neat in director Matthew J. Saville’s semi-biographical film, Rampling shines like the sun from start to finish.