There is nothing more precious than the bond one can have with their family. Sure we can connect with friends or strangers on a day-to-day basis, but our families are the ones who truly know who we are and what we are all about. In the case of Bradley Grant Smith’s Our Father, we get a story that follows two estranged sisters who must come together after the death of their father, and the outcome turns out to be a complete misfire from all who are involved.
Beta (Baize Buzan) has recently been accepted into a full ride for college. Before she can tell anyone in her family, she is hit with the news that her father has committed suicide. Heartbroken by this news, Beta goes straight to her sister Zelda (Allison Torem) to share the news and the girls figure out what they need to do next. Beta’s life is much more organized than her sisters. While she is going back to school and ready to start a new chapter in her life, Zelda is more of a wild spirit, with a dark secret she has been hiding from everyone. The two go to their stepmother’s house, where they are told by her and their half-brothers that their father had a brother, their long lost uncle. Angered by this, the girls set out to find him to tell them the news of their father, bond more as siblings, and bring some emotional closure to the matter.
All of this sounds pretty dandy on paper, and a movie that would be pretty fun to watch, but in the execution, it’s a complete mess. Writer-director Bradley Grant Smith doesn’t seem to fully understand how to write female characters and that’s a big problem when your main characters are two young girls. Beta and Zelda are presented in such conventional ways, with one being the good girl and the other being the wild card, that it says nothing new about them that explains to us why this story needs to be told. Buzan and Torem do a decent job in trying to get the most out of these two characters but there is no nuance on the page for them to work with. They are cold at every turn
Then there is the supporting characters, like Ann Whitney and the three gentlemen who play the half-brothers in the film. All of these actors feel like they were taking out of a David O Russell rip-off movie in which their scenes are just them acting like cardboard cutouts of terrible people. And the big problem is, they aren’t good enough to make the audience think they are truly horrible people. They are just filling in the way of these two girls going on their road trip to find their uncle. But beyond these characters and how they are written, it’s the fact that we spend what feels like fifty percent of the movie with them, thus stifling the growth of Beta and Zelda’s story. And when we get to the road trip, or the scenes with their uncle, none of it matters. There’s no attachment to any emotionality in those moments because it just feels like we spent a long time to get to something that never paid off.
Our Father should have been more than what we were given. It’s a movie with an interesting idea about two sisters from opposite ends coming together and embracing what has been lost in their lives, and realizing they need each other now more than ever. Instead it’s a collection of mish mashed scenes that don’t add up to compelling narrative feature, and ultimately feels like a waste of time for those involved. Maybe Bradley Grant Smith will have something to say with his next feature, but until then, this movie leaves the audience feeling like the two leads in the film, abandoned searching for more.
This review is from the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.