Writer-Director Stacie Passon’s masterful 2013 film “Concussion”
Some films attract us because of the sheer audacity of performance: That quality of genuineness and emotional resonance that we feel and understand and appreciate at a core level beyond the artifice of convoluted Hollywood concepts and million dollar marketing campaigns. Some films root us there with character-centered possibility, driven to portray a likeness to truth, however framed for effect, whereby situational conflict is brought to fruition through the charged dramatic unfolding of well constructed lives. Performance is the fuel of films about troubled people and burgeoning interactions and they cater to our expectation of artful and selective verisimilitude. In this way we can develop an emotional relationship without the need for an overarching event or concept driven structure. Writer-Director Stacie Passon’s 2013 film “Concussion” creates just such a landscape, populated with the interpersonal quandaries of everyday people fighting ordinary for an extraordinary revelation that their lives hold meaning in-congruent with their personal and professional obligations. Passon masterfully crafts the complexity of inward glances to produce a quality of deafening silence that fills the screen with the unconveyable voracity of wounded hearts.
In the quiet corners of our lives we sometimes discover that we have lost ourselves in the comfy mirrors of normalcy.
Passon’s richly sensual slice-of-life carefully carves out a middle class suburbia where routine and duty are essential components in the realm of a disenfranchised 42-year-old mother and wife (Robin Weigert) desperate for more life. She manages the four walls of her relationships until a freak accidental blow to the head sets off a chain of events that jars her out of the stifling dissonance of trying kids and a frigid wife (Julia Fain Lawrence). What ensues is a crisis of self that turns her dampened world of privilege and longing inside out. “Concussion” works on multiple levels, first as a performance driven drama with characters that live and breathe in specificity and charm, then as a modern parable about the age-old dilemma of broken promises and desires detoured. You should experience this film as intended, allow it to envelop you and draw you away from forgone conclusions about your own trials and tribulations of the heart and loins. Do yourself the favor of shuffling off the baggage out there, the heavy-handed or otherwise trivial reviews of hardened negativity about sex and romance. Overbearing opinions have no value here, those frequently tangled moray and distrusts that discolor empowered women with varying means of finding and owning their own way in and out of control. It would be a mistake to label this film as a gay romance or otherwise gender parable, reducing the impact of such fine writing and acting to little more than the abhorrent behavior inherent when couples come apart and the sacrosanct boundaries of marriage are crossed and torn asunder.
In the calculated and desperate interiors of an affluent suburbia where mid-lifers’ struggle at the crossroads of staying the same or changing forever, “Concussion” is as refreshingly honest and relevant as it is necessary and frank. What turns inner strife to shocking choices is less obvious as a blow to the head in our day-to-day drudgery but no less revealing of the inherent difficulties of identity crisis at any age or from any rung on the social ladder. In the midst of life’s ups and downs, mired in prolonged periods of selflessness, we often forsake individuality in order to counterbalance our short-term unhappiness with the long-term happiness of others. In this way relationships are formed and inevitably the individual becomes a fracture in the couple despite their great sacrifice and the outward appearance of accountability, love and commitment. It is the stifled and unrequited heart that burns so very brightly in literature and films, characters driven by desperation and great courage to regain their former identities, pursue their innermost passions and tear their worlds apart in the process. Passon’s film asks the hardest questions, like can a couple be happy if the individuals are not? And, what do we make of our tireless pursuits of joy and rage once embraced, allowed in, brought to fruition only to be cauterized by dawn’s early light? In this reduction of lives lived and dreams detoured in a Manhattan landscape where professional and personal malaise thrives, the characters are at once timeless, familiar and tragically us.
Like the central characters in films about crisis, sexual awakenings and brute force mediocrity, “Concussion” invites the audience to imagine the safety of routine and reason until one day everything becomes a question of sacrifice and loss. This is a passionate amalgamation of experiences, both autobiographical and otherwise, concentrated by the sagging reality of a lesbian couple’s suburban world of mirrors. There is no denying the painterly pace, as necessary as poignant in films about our everyday lives, but unlike the often brash objectification of sex and intimacy popularized by some independent pictures, Passon creates a world of tactile minutiae without apology or cumbersome narration. The effect is to frame the true centerpiece of the film, namely the evocative unraveling of Abby and her confrontation with the emotional volatility of a suffocated forty-something insider her that desperately needs releasing. “Concussion” is profoundly approachable and at times seductively disarming, weaving a tapestry of intense and beautifully photographed moments where contemplative long shots foster immutable expressions and precision lends a psychology of imagery to inner and outer locations.
“Concussion” is neither a gay or straight film but rather a journey that captures the fleeting moments of doubt and indecision betwixt doing what is right for the people in our lives and living with the consequences of doing what is right for ourselves. It might not be the right film for everyone, perhaps only a select audience willing to entertain the fleeting remnants of dreams teetering on the temporality of truth and the make-believe rewards of our failures and successes.
“The idea wasn’t to get it right, the idea was to just have this character go on a pretty simple journey.” ~ Stacie Passon