The plot in a nutshell: Upon finding out that she has weeks to live, Anna returns home to Oregon to reconnect with her estranged brother, Michael (Steven Strait). Anna’s had quite the journey: after their father threw her out for being gay, she lived on the streets of San Francisco for two years, then began to make money off her art and met her girlfriend, Luisa (Kristin Taylor). “I don’t steal s**t anymore,” she tells Michael.
Anna wants to put to use Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which “allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.” This infuriates Michael at first. “You don’t get to just off yourself!” he screams. Later on, he comes to his senses. Anna bides her time vaping with Michael’s girlfriend, Shonda (Chloe Mason). Luisa comes to visit. They all say farewell to Anna and Michael’s father in a filmed ceremony, wherein they spread his ashes over a creek. They go to a beach and dance and have existential talks by the fire. You probably get where this is going.
“…True’s technical prowess is as impressive as his subject matter is lunk-headed.”
In a cast of performers weeping away – or stoically fighting back tears – Joe Lo Truglio stands out, providing much-needed levity as the quirky Gary “Next Door” Evans. “Michael’s trusted next-door technical advisor,” Gary is ridden with numerous afflictions like agoraphobia and Asperger’s. He has a penchant for coming into the siblings’ house uninvited to borrow sugar. Sure, his character may come close to becoming a caricature, but Truglio avoids falling into that trap. The film’s highlight comes in an extended, quiet scene between him and Anna when she’s in pain, and he offers some unconventional wisdom.
A twangy soundtrack, a dying protagonist, spelled-out themes of family reconciliation and facing death… Look, if that’s your thing, you may as well add a point or two to my review and enjoy the hell out of Here Awhile. I’m a total cinematic masochist – I adore Melancholia and It’s Such a Beautiful Day, to name two downer films– but 90 or so minutes of emotional hammering and being reminded of our fragility and imminent demise is a bit much. I can turn on the news for that. Or watch something more intellectually fulfilling. You know, like Meirelles or Hitch.
"…it's incredibly obvious that the filmmaker is blatantly tugging at raw heartstrings..."