South Mountain(Amazon Prime)
Starring Talia Balsam and Scott Cohen
Directed by Hilary Brougher
This undiscovered gem on marital discord doesn’t introduce us to the characters the way clever movies do. You know, like someone says, “Hey you can’t do that you are my sister!’ to let us know the identity of the guy who has just entered the plot. None of that spoonfeeding happens in Hillary Brougher’s premier stab at at a feature-length film.No self-pity for the wronged. No atonement for the guilty.
The characters and their dilemma creep up on you the way life usually does. Without warning. And you are left threshing around in the deep murky waters hoping the tide would take you to the shore.
Nothing is for sure in South Mountain. When we meet Lila played by the brilliant Talia Balsam,she is busy entertaining family and friends in their idyllic home in the Catskill Mountains(NY). She doesn’t know why her husband Edgar has locked himself in one of the rooms while guests swarm the couple’s home.
Edgar is watching a woman on his phone giving birth to a baby. His baby. Big problem ahead for Lila. Writer-director Hillary Brougher doesn’t punctuate the drama with the sound of rolling thunder and background music. The crisis is handled with restrain and normalcy even as it deepens.
As in most films about a fractured marriage it is the wife who remains the focus of attention. As Lila struggling with contrasting emotions of rage, frustration,bitterness and forgiveness Talia Balsam gives a performance which needs no external props, no music or sympathetic friends and relatives to let us know the the swirling inner turmoil of a woman who has just been told that her world has collapsed.
Lila keeps her panic in check, not because there are children and friends listening in but because there is no bandwidth for selfpity in her consciousness.The most savagely funny sequence has Lila mix ground sleeping tablets into her husband’s cake that she bakes for him. As soon as he takes a bite she changes her mind. I found this response to her craving for revenge way too ‘Big Litte Lies’ specially since her husband Edgar(played with a balanced sense of guilt and determination by Scott Cohen) is no cad.
Lila goes and and has a brief affair with a much younger man which , like watching porn, leaves her feeling sickened in her stomach.
South Mountain left me with a deep sense of sadness . What it tells us about a ruptured relationship is that one of the two parties can opt out. But it doesn’t mean the other party stops loving and caring. It’s a dreadful situation to be in. South Mountain doesn’t dramatize Lila’s sense of betrayal. It normalizes her hurt.And that hurts the most.