Lymelife Review: American Beauty With Grit
As far as the depiction of family life goes, the film market is saturated with this topic of interest. The Hollywood representation of suburban family decline in American Beauty, for example, could be seen as a definitive example of many films like it – excellent as it is.
Film makers have long wanted to pull back the veil on the flimsy facade of something with which we are all familiar. However, few directors manage the subtlety, beauty and sadness that the Martini brothers achieve with Lymelife. Set in Long Island, the dreary look at the interaction and problems of two neighbouring families not only utterly convinces with its acting, but captures a realism and poignancy that demands special attention.
Scott, played by Rory Culkin, is a confused 15 year old, isolated by his youth, battling with his love for the next door girl, and his opinions of his work-aholic father. We follow Scott whilst he attempts to come to terms with the flux of life and the realisation that his parents are not the invincible pillars of goodness they once appeared. As he develops as a character, the cracks in American suburbia begin to widen.
His performance is especially worthy of note. The dynamic with his brother (Kieran Culkin), for example, is shockingly convincing. “Hang on”, I hear you cry, “but they ARE brothers”. This real-life connection, remember, did not stop good ‘ol Ben Affleck and J-Lo from destroying the bond of a natural relationship when they received ‘Worst screen couple’ for their art imitating life portrayal in Gigli.
Scott’s neighbour has Lyme’s disease, which provides a distinct metaphor that runs throughout the film. A physical disease at the heart of much paranoia sits side by side the crumbling mirage of family life and morals. The notion of a sweep-things-under-the-carpet stiff upper lip attitude to family problems is explored unflinchingly.
Some of the awkward teenage moments in Lymelife hark to the low-budget indie films embodied by the likes of Juno. But the former is different. Instead of self-aware, nervous, knowingly ‘geeky’ exchanges, we get interaction that you will genuinely remember from your youth. Scotty and Adrianna’s virginal sex scene, for example, will have you wincing as you recall your own nervous forays into the world of adulthood.
Indeed, the acting is something that helps make the plot so compelling and certainly backs up this utterly airtight, cohesive film. The castings of the Culkin brothers, Cynthia Nixon as the disillusioned wife of the Lyme’s sufferer, and Alec Baldwin as hunter gatherer Mickey all compliment the slick, nicely shot scenes.
I truly challenge anyone to remain unaffected by Lymelife. I for one am still reeling from the bizarre feeling of joy, sadness and irretrievable hollow emptiness I encountered after the emphatic and unforgiving ending completes this brilliant film.