Lymelife - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DERICK Martini’s Lymelife is a quirky slice of Americana that wears its indie values on its sleeve. But it’s also a moving, funny and brilliantly acted ensemble drama that’s well worth catching.
Set in 1970s Long Island, the film follows the fortunes of Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin), a coming-of-age teen who has long harboured a crush on his next door neighbour, Arianna (Emma Roberts), and whose family life is slowly unravelling against the backdrop of a Lyme disease outbreak.
For starters, Scott’s confident father (Alec Baldwin) has just started an affair with Arianna’s mother (Cynthia Nixon), whose own husband (Timothy Hutton) is coping with the effects of Lyme disease. And then there’s Scott’s older brother, Jimmy (Kieran Culkin), for whom impending military service is beginning to have a profound effect.
When Lymelife did the festival circuit earlier this year it garnered generally strong reviews, and won the International Critics’ Award in Toronto. Some reviewers also likened it to American Beauty for its searing insight into a dysfunctional family, while others drew parallels with Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm.
Yet while knowingly quirky a lot of the time, the story and its characters does involve with Martini allowing proceedings to play firmly to the strengths of its top-drawer cast.
Both Culkin brothers are on fine form, displaying an [obviously] easy sibling chemistry, as well as a little antagonism. It’s Rory who has to carry the film, however, and his sensitive portrayal of Scott taps into the awkwardness of events that provide a defining moment in his young life – the realisation that life is seldom as easy as portrayed in the movies, where young men are forced to grow up fast.
There’s outstanding support, too, from Roberts (slowly breaking away from ‘safer’ teen fare and into much more interesting territory), as well as Hutton, as the disease-ridden father slowly losing a grip on reality, yet not enough to ignore his wife’s infidelty.
Baldwin, meanwhile, provides a typically towering presence and a brilliant reminder of why, given the right movie material, he is such a formidable performer. It’s a pleasure to see him being given such a great platform to showcase his talents on the big screen.
Martini’s film isn’t without the odd flaw, of course. The slow-burning pace won’t be to everyone’s tastes, while the odd surreal moment places this firmly in the indie category. The ending, too, is powerful enough to appeal and stay with those who don’t always like their movies to come sugar coated.
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD Release: August 23, 2010