Film & Television

‘Boundaries’: A Multi-Generational Road Trip

Vera Farmiga, a working actress since her mid-twenties, really came to our attention in 2009, playing opposite George Clooney in Up in the Air. Her character, Alex, was an interesting twist on typical gender roles. She managed to out-Clooney Clooney and was rewarded with an Oscar nomination. Here, she is an appealing bundle of mixed emotions. She resents her father, but still craves his attention. She loves her son, but he causes her no end of anxiety. She’s still attracted to her ex, even though he proves himself to be a truly repugnant human being. And then there are the seemingly countless animals, scruffy misfits who need nurturing as much as she does. “You’re the Pied Piper of mange,” her father tells her.

We’re led to believe that Laura is often her own worst enemy, but she’s also being used (and to some extent abused) by all the men in her life. Her father may regret his absence in her younger life, but he never apologizes, and certainly doesn’t hesitate to coerce her into taking him on his dope-dealing road trip. Her ex-husband has no qualms about seducing her for old-time’s sake. And her son, who is challenging at best, takes her for granted. “Will you do me a favor?” she asks as she drops him off at school. “What will you give me?” he counters. “My undying love,” she replies. He grins smugly. “I’ve got it already.”

Farmiga and Plummer play off each other flawlessly. And they are well matched by 16-year-old Scottish actor Lewis MacDougall, who is quickly enlisted to assist in his grandfather’s pot business. Although initially reluctant to participate in something “that’s so illegal,” he is enchanted by Jack’s joie de vivre and eager to fill in some of his family’s missing pieces. He claims that his drawings, pornographic although finely rendered, depict people’s souls. Once he’s spent time with his father, he draws him as a trollish fiend with a tiny penis.

Henry’s deadbeat dad is played by Bobby Cannavale, and he’s terrific (terribly unlikeable but terrific), as is the rest of Heste’s supporting cast, which includes Peter Fonda, Christopher Lloyd, and Kristen Schaal. Heste also cast her own father (who has since passed away) in a quick cameo, which she now claims is her favorite part of the movie.

Boundaries isn’t a great movie (although it’s Heste’s best by far to date), but the writing is smart and funny, the scenery along the Pacific coast is glorious, and the performances are all topnotch. It was a labor of love for the director, and her close connection to the material is apparent.

Women and Hollywood recently asked her “What advice do you have for other female directors?”

Heste replied, “Learn to write your own films because it will be up to you to define who you want to be in this business. If you wait around for amazing scripts to be sent to you, you won’t be making many films.”

This seems like advice that Debra Granik, writer-director of Leave No Trace would agree with.

And how marvelous to find two new movies — written and directed by women — released in two consecutive weeks.

Let’s hope it’s a trend that continues.


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  • Dennis Renner July 14, 2018 at 12:32 am

    I find the resolution affirming (so as not to be a spoiler other than to explain that it does seem plausible given the Plummer character’s character) . . . but I wondered who the protagonist was telephoning late in the movie when she told somebody off with indignant voice and language. I finally decided it doesn’t matter who she called, it was her first decisive “boundary” moment . . . is that accurate or reasonable?