In Our Nature (2012)

(On Cable TV, March 2014) I’m not necessarily adverse to slow-moving character-based dramas in isolated locations featuring a handful of actors, but I like it a bit better when the characters are sympathetic and when there’s at least a bit of a dramatic arc to the bickering. In Our Nature has the benefit of a neat self-constrained premise, as an estranged father and son accidentally end up with their girlfriends at the family’s nature retreat due to a scheduling mishap. Forced to spend some time together, they all end up arguing, making up, saying terrible things to each other, experiencing nature and maybe (just maybe) gain some understanding of each other. This kind of thing is a natural actor’s showcase, and so it is a treat to see John Slattery, Gabrielle Union, Jena Malone and Zach Gilford get to exert some thespian muscles. Slattery doesn’t get very far from his Mad Men character and Zach Gilford labour under the constraints of a spoiled, unlikable character, so it’s up to Union and Malone to deliver the most interesting performances despite smaller roles. The film has a slow and somewhat amiable pacing: despite the remarkable location, there isn’t much to be done here than take advantage of the setting and let the characters talk. A few good ideas about estrangement and life are to be found in the mix, and for moviegoers who usually specialize in genre fiction, there’s something refreshing about a film that takes place in (often awkward) conversations, where the big action highlights are falling from a kayak and seeing a cub bear rummage through a kitchen. But there’s a limit to how much plotlessness even indie dramas can sustain, and once In Our Nature is over, it’s hard to avoid thinking that the film has plenty of loose ends, ideas left unexplored and the changes in the relationships by the end of the film are so subtle as to be insignificant. Is it a change of pace from Hollywood’s usual spectacle of overblown emotions? Of course. Is it satisfying from a moviegoer’s perspective? Not entirely.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *