BAMcinemaFest 2019 Review: ‘South Mountain’

South Mountain one-sheet poster

South Mountain | Hilary Brougher | BAMcinemaFest 2019 Review

Director Hilary Brougher returns after 2013’s Innocence with South Mountain, a tale about the uncertain domestic circumstance between husband and wife as they try to juggle the threat of new life with the one that they are still trying to maintain.

Lila (Talia Balsam) and Edgar (Scott Cohen) have a rocky relationship but have a beautiful family that lives with them in a lovely part of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Things hit a hitch when Lila finds out that Edgar has started a life with another woman, who has just given birth to their baby. With her daughters Sam (Macaulee Cassaday) and Dara (Naian González Norvind) away and some well-needed space needed from Edgar who has departed to be with his new family, Lila is left to cope alone, along with her friend Gigi (Andrus Nichols) who is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

South Mountain still - Lila and her friend

Talia Balsam sells the panicked and lonely feeling that understandably strikes Lila hard and fast. Sadly, it’s not the first time she’s been in a troubled situation with Edgar, so this is her breaking point. Baslsam seethes with the pain and frustration of the shocking news thrown at her in expert fashion. It’s hard to imagine another actress at the helm in her position.

But Brougher operates South Mountain with the same slow drawn out pace as a lazy summer day. This results in minimal connection to these characters and that makes the dramatic heft fall flat. Some big moments that are supposed to land with great dramatic effect often fall flat, feeling like unintentional comedy.

It’s surely a shame, as you can feel the passion from Balsam’s performance, but quite frankly, the rest of the performers fail to match hers. Ultimately, so much of it feels done before and predictable, such as an affair that Lila has with Jonah (Michael Oberholtzer), a new friend of her daughters’, or that she has post-break-up sex with Edgar and remains conflicted.

South Mountain is worth seeing for the capable and giving performance from Balsam but it lacks the conviction to really portray the dramatic heft of the film in a way that is convincing or as electrifying as its lead performance.

Rating: 5.0/10

South Mountain screens as part of BAMCinemafest 2019 and doesn’t have a US release date yet.