Reception, The

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 07/27/05 15:50:49

"A formidable foursome."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

To the casual observer, Jeannette and Martin appear to be a loving couple who enjoy nothing more than to spend their evenings snuggling together on their couch, reading in companionable silence and sipping red wine. He (Wayne Lamont Sims) is a handsome African-American artist in his 30s, an even-tempered, introspective man who seems quietly devoted to Jeannette. A lovely, sophisticated French woman, she (Pamela Holden Stewart) is Caucasian, some years Martin’s senior, outgoing, self-absorbed, and perhaps just a touch too needy. Despite – or possibly because of – their differences, they seem well-matched and content in the idyllic mountain home they have created for themselves. Scratch the surface, though, and an entirely different picture emerges from beneath the polished veneer.

Although their affection for one another is completely genuine, their “marriage” is one of appearances only. In truth, Martin is gay, a blocked painter who spends his days sequestered in his studio staring at blank canvas, terrified of his creative impasse and the possibility of its exposure to Jeannette, who is his financial patron. Jeannette’s own terror is of solitude, and when she begs Martin to sleep with her, we understand that she isn’t asking for sex, but for him to simply stay with her so that she won’t be left alone.

Jeannette’s prescription for coping with her own loneliness and her anger at men is the glass of red wine that rarely leaves her hand or her side, a combustible potion that every day sends her into a vicious cycle of rage and self-recrimination – with Martin being the most frequent casualty.

Enter Jeannette’s long-estranged daughter Sierra (Margaret Burkwit) and her new husband Andrew (Darien Sills-Evans), themselves an interracial couple, who come bearing a cornucopia of secrets and lies of their own. Although Sierra’s original intent was to show up long enough to collect an inheritance and be on her way with Andrew, her plan is thwarted when Jeannette insists upon throwing an impromptu wedding reception for the young couple. As the quartet embark upon a four-day odyssey of realization of themselves and each other, painful truths are exposed, deceptions fall away, and relationships that were grounded in large measure on convenience and co-dependence make way for ones that hold the promise of true fulfillment in each one’s life.

The Reception, shot in digital video on location in Roxbury NY in snowy winter, looks gorgeous – all the more notable for the fact that it was filmed in eight days on a budget of $5,000.00. In Jeannette, Martin, Sierra, and Andrew, writer-director John G. Young has created a breathtaking ensemble of intricately nuanced characters; breathing life into those characters, his four actors do him proud.

In any year, a sharply scripted, beautifully performed adult American drama about complicated people in complex relationships would be welcome. In 2005, a year glutted with remakes, sequels, prequels, CGI-laden action flicks, and substandard rom-coms, The Reception is a blessing.

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