SF INDIE FEST 2024 REVIEW! Suffering an intense bout of writer’s block, author Misha (Jess Salgueiro) is behind on her deadline. Her publisher reached out, demanding that she provide pages and proof of progress on her book. Unfortunately, the emotional and psychological weight of an ongoing pandemic continues to crush any of her writing inspiration.
Misha’s husband, Arnold (Tom Keenan), a very successful doctor, suggests that he and his wife get out of the city and spend some time at his family’s cabin. Misha is hesitant but reluctantly agrees to go to the family cabin. There is some marital tension at play between the two, which is only made more pronounced after arriving at the cabin.
Misha is totally out of her element at the cabin in the woods. However, an encounter with a deer among the trees and discovering an old-school typewriter revive her enthusiasm and vision for writing. Meanwhile, after spending some time in town and interacting with the locals, Arnold discovers that the pandemic has developed into a much larger event. Returning to the city and their old way of life may no longer be an option.
Director Jeremy Guenette, along with writer duo Charles Beaudette and Josh Benoit, weave a relatable tale of self-discovery in their film Malaleuca. Like the formation of a diamond, the characters, under the pressure and constraints of a global crisis, are forced to find themselves and adapt to their circumstances.
“Suffering an intense bout of writer’s block, author Misha is behind on her deadline…”
The entire cast is great. Jess Salgueiro shines so brightly in Melaleuca, elevating the character of Misha and channeling fear, passion, and even anger in a powerful manner. Tom Keenan brings Arnold’s bright-eyed and utterly optimistic character to life in a way that makes him hard not to like.
Melaleuca leans into the fear of the unknown. Misha is anxious about the future of her writing career and the book for which her publisher has already given her a financial advance. Arnold is anxious about the future of his family and the prospect of starting a family with Misha; a topic charging the tension in their marriage. And ultimately, the future of the world at large amid a pandemic has quickly progressed into something more sinister.
We have all been there at one point in our lives, wondering what will come next and how we will handle it. Thankfully, the film doesn’t dwell on the pandemic too much, at least not much on how we all experienced the past few years. The real-life pandemic was depressing enough. I tend to shy away from movies that remind me of those days.
The film embraces a non-linear structure to tell its story. Scenes jump the timeline and tease future events in the film. While a cool concept in theory, the plot of Melaleuca is still a bit slow to develop. The pandemic evolved into a more complex situation, but the explanation is vague, and I was left wondering how and why this happened. Around the one-hour mark, things come together as Misha and Arnold must fight to overcome a challenge fueled by the situation.
There is a lot to like about Melaleuca. High-caliber acting, matched with a very polished production, makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. Melaleuca is packed with some thrilling moments and even a few laughs to lighten the mood along the way.
Melaleuca screened at the 2024 SF Indie Fest.
"…channeling fear, passion, and even anger in a powerful manner..."