A Wake is a family drama dealing with secrets and LGBTQIA+ issues. After the death of a teenager named Mitchel (Noah Urrea), his family must come to grips with his passing and take a look at their behavior and attitudes. The children of the family do not share the same religious fervor as their elders, and culture clashes start when Megan (Megan Trout), the older sister and black sheep, returns home after a long absence and is determined to stop pandering to the family secrets.
The youngest daughter, Molly (Sofia Rosinsky), plans a wake, and her histrionic insistence that everyone hit their marks and follow her plan precisely further amps up the tension. Mitchel’s identical twin brother Mason (also Noah Urrea) feels he has unfinished business with his twin and desperately turns to mystical spiritualism to try to speak with him in the afterlife. As the guests begin to arrive for the wake, one mysterious young man named Jameson (Kolton Stewart) appears, claiming to have been invited, though no one admits to sending him an invitation. His presence and what is learned about his relationship with Mitchel upends the family’s image of their son/brother and changes everything about the family’s dynamic.
Director-writer Scott Boswell has created a tempest in a family teapot that explores the stressed relationships of the family as a whole and then dissects the issues more granularly as he focuses on each one of them in turn. The shining performance of A Wake is Urrea, playing both Mason and Mitchel. Unfortunately, the budget does not allow for fancy CGI tricks. Still, Boswell artfully employs camera angles and editing to create convincing scenes in which Urrea appears to be talking to the other character he’s playing. The rest is the magic of solid acting chops by the teen performer.
“…upends the family’s image of their son/brother and changes everything about the family’s dynamic.”
This narrative is a specific mix of factors that drives the dissonance of the family connections. This particular mix has become an all-too-familiar toxic blend seen in the American nuclear family. The older generation looks to their non-secular framework of beliefs. Because part of that dogma calls for low tolerance of other epistemological systems, they expect the children to toe that line. The kids have their own ideas about how the world works and a more open view of relationships and family. Mason is full of guilt, blaming himself for his brother’s death, and his rage and helplessness push the family to the breaking point. Sofia Rosinsky as Molly also delivers a powerful performance as a little girl growing into severe emotional issues of her own coming from the fractured family environment.
A wake, of course, is an event to celebrate the life of someone who has passed. The title of A Wake is also an interesting double entendre: “awake,” as the family comes to terms with new information that pulls them out of their sleepwalking, traditional assumptions about each other. It also plays on the term “woke,” which is either praise or a curse, depending on your view of the world.
A Wake was well regarded during its festival run, including winning Festival Favorite – Feature Film at Cinema Diverse and Best LGBT Film at Big Apple Film Festival. Boswell has painted a portrait here of a not-uncommon American family with deep fissures in their relationships that reflect American culture at large. Still, he also shines a light on the ways this might be healed, through tolerance and understanding, both in the family and the culture.
"…solid acting chops by the teen performer."