“A WAKE”: Movie Review

The family in Scott Boswell’s superb family drama A Wake are gathered together to honor the memory of Mitchel (Noah Urrea), a teen who one family member characterized as “a nervous kid, but also really strong.  I think in some ways he kept the family together.”  The official reason for the young man’s death was an accidental overdose of benzos, pain medication, or both. But was there more to Mitchel’s story?  Was the teen hiding a secret from this family, even keeping his identical twin brother Mason (also played by Urrea) in the dark?  As with any intriguing drama, there is always more than meets the eye.  Mitchel’s backstory emerges slowly throughout the long day of the movie’s titular wake, forcing many of his family members to confront their own feelings and issues along the way.  We meet the heads of the family: Mason and Mitchel’s no-nonsense, by-the-books father (Kevin Karrick) and their stepmother Vanessa (Emilie Talbot), who seems sympathetic but is simply unable to handle the emotional needs of her new, recently begrieved family.  Later on, we also meet the older sister Megan (Megan Trout), who has not seen her family in a long time for reasons the audience learns later.  The youngest member of the family is Molly (Sofia Rosinsky), a precocious-with-a-capital-“P” preteen (When told that females cannot become Catholic priests, she retorts, “Then I’ll be the first GIRL priest!”) who at times seems to rival Mom and Dad as boss of the family. I’m going to jump ahead from the plot to insert that Rosinsky as Molly steals every scene she’s in– even though she often does it with the subtlety of a fuzzy pink sledgehammer.  Loretta, her charming grandmother (played with exquisite grace by Bettina Devin), serves as the main challenge and occasional comic foil to the tween firecracker.  We also get to hear from the late Mitchel himself, via flashback scenes.  

At the center of A Wake is Mason, who is haunted by dreams of Mitchel and is attempting every method in his power to try to learn more about his departed lookalike brother.  He seeks help from both the family pastor (Scott Cox) and a clairvoyant (Regia Sargent) for answers before resorting to even more unorthodox methods.  Mason eventually finds an unlikely connection to Mitchel when an unexpected guest arrives at the wake.  That guest is Jameson (Kolton Stewart), a sensitive African-American teen who offers what none of the other characters could– some insight into a side of Mitchel which no one knew.  At the movie’s climactic wake, secrets come out, one after another.  Given the family’s oft-discussed religious background (The audience finds out that they are Baptists.), the stakes are high in the discovery of the true circumstances behind Mitchel’s death.

The acting is excellent by all the cast members, and a particularly welcome scene comes when big sis Megan disrupts the heavy mood of the the wake with some surprise sitcom-style humor, just when the audience needs it the most.  All of the major figures in A Wake are intriguing enough to make the viewer quite invested in the story, thanks to Boswell’s writing, solid character development, and the aforementioned superb acting. We legitimately feel Mason’s hunger in learning more about the troubled boy who he may not have known as well as he thought– despite sharing identical DNA.

A Wake will be released August 31 from Breaking Glass Pictures on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, through local cable & satellite providers, and on DVD. Visit here for more info.

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