New from Kevin Wozniak on Kevflix: Chicago International Film Festival Movie Review: The Year Between

 

Alex Heller writes, directs, and stars in The Year Between, a darkly funny comedy about mental illness and the importance of family.

Heller plays Clemence, a college student who drops out of school and moves back in with her parents in an Illinois suburb following a newly diagnosed mental illness. While at home, Clemence is constantly clashing with her parents (Steve Buscemi, J. Smith-Cameron) and her two younger siblings (Emily Robinson, Wyatt Oleff), who are just trying to make it through the struggles and stress of high school without their mentally unstable sister invading their lives. Clemence tries to get her life back on track by seeing a therapist and trying to hold down a retail job at a local thrift store, while the stresses of life around her make it more difficult than she expected.

Heller is a force to be reckoned with. Her writing, directing, and acting are all on point, which is impressive for somebody juggling all those responsibilities, along with producing the film. Her writing is smart, quick, and filled with humor. Her portrait of a woman with a mental illness feels realistic and is loaded with empathy. And her performance is incredible. Clemence doesn’t have any filter and will spurt out anything that comes to her mind. She’s brash and unapologetic, but never unlikable. No matter what Clemence says or does, we are always rooting for her to get better. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, this character could have come up obnoxious and mean, but Heller makes Clemence complicated and messy while also being sweet and full of heart.

Alex Heller as Clemence in The Year Between (Level Forward)
Alex Heller as Clemence in The Year Between (Level Forward)

Clemence and her family are the best parts of The Year Between and the reason why the movie works so well. The supporting cast of Buscemi, Smith-Cameron, Robinson, and Oleff are all excellent and you really buy into all five of them as a family. Are they dysfunctional? Sure, but what family isn’t? You feel all the emotions that this family is going through and more importantly, you feel the love they have for each other even when they want to rip each other’s heads off.

At the core of The Year Between is the message that everyone is going through something and the best way to get through it is support. Whether it is Clemence with her mental illness or her father struggling with his teaching job or her little sister obsessing over getting into a good college, everyone has something that they are going through, and some don’t deal with it while others do. But with the help and support of your family, you can get through anything and Heller portrays that in The Year Between with intelligence, heart, and skill.

 

The Year Between played in the Women in Cinema category of the 2022 Chicago International Film Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

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