How you gonna keep ’em down on the commune after they’ve seen Paree? Seventeen-year-old Anahita (Piper De Palma) hasn’t been to the City of Lights, exactly, but she’s getting the itch to put some space between herself and her kooky mom, Dianic (Amanda Plummer). They live in a commune on the outskirts of a big city, and Anahita secretly yearns to be a dancer. Her sister, Sahaja (Jade Fusco), a single mom, and her young son, Ocean (Landen Beattie) are also residents of this country outpost where 1960s counterculture ethos lives on.
The place is partly a spiritual retreat, where nightly services seem to be on the New Age, yoga, and meditation wavelength. The residents coexist in peace mostly, although with a few there’s an ever-present sense of quiet desperation brewing under the surface. Two visitors come on the scene, Mau (Cosimo Fusco) and his 18-year-old son Theo (Teo Halm), and their presence stirs Anahita to set her sights on moving to the city to pursue her dreams.
Director Alec Tibaldi’s take on the perils and bittersweet joys of communal living feels authentic as if drawn from his personal experience — I have no idea whether or not it was. But the texture of life in this home for those seeking to “live consciously,” as the commune ringleader puts it, feels just right.
“They live in a commune on the outskirts…Anahita secretly yearns to be a dancer.”
This isn’t a takedown of communes or alternative lifestyles, but a character study of a handful of people who’ve gravitated toward that kind of living arrangement or were born into it. Those were born into it are the restless ones. They’re like the quintessential small-town kid who hasn’t seen much of the world but dreams that there must be something big out there that he or she is missing.
Piper De Palma, daughter of director Brian De Palma, gives a lovely, wistful performance as the introverted Anahita, who struggles to break free from her roots and find her place in the world. And there’s plenty of family baggage weighing her down. Her mom has a penchant for sharing too much information, which embarrasses Anahita to no end. Amanda Plummer as Dianic — her daughters call her Di, never mom — chortles inappropriately one evening at a communal dinner after revealing that her brother was molested as a child. Plummer is just fine as the slightly loopy, irresponsible family matriarch who is at turns amusing, annoying and a bit frightening. She fondly reminisces to the kids about her salad days of popping Quaaludes at Studio 54. Both she and daughter Sahaja are the sporadically present single mothers for whom Anahita has to pick up the childcare and household chores slack. It’s no wonder she wants to get the hell out of Dodge yesterday.
From day one of his arrival at the farm, Theo seems destined to get together with Anahita — she eyes him from afar, but when they do interact she treats him with disdain. His dad and her mom are shacking up, and Anahita has learned from bitter experience that the men in her mom’s life have a one-week shelf life. While she loathes investing emotional energy in someone who’s bound to leave soon, her apparent distaste for Theo belies a secret attraction to him. Even when he hooks up with her best friend, the sexually ambiguous Miracle (Sara Anne) — you’ve got to love, or perhaps frown at, the gloriously self-indulgent hippy names the parents have tagged onto their kids.
“…all loose ends aren’t exactly tied up in a neat bow…”
When Anahita finally works up the chutzpah to leave the family fold and move to the big city, Sahaja makes an end run around her to scuttle the escape, all for purely selfish reasons. Jade Fusco’s Sahaja yearns for a stable home for her and her son, but she might be too much of her mother’s daughter to settle down. In a self-assured performance, she gives Sahaja a wily, seductive edge.
At the conclusion, all loose ends aren’t exactly tied up in a neat bow, but we can still hold out hope for the three women and the young boy. Family ties are hard to break, but for Anahita, who has gazed upon the lights of the city, there could always be brighter days ahead.
Spiral Farm (2019) Directed by Alec Tibaldi. Written by Thomai Hatsios, Alec Tibaldi. Starring Piper De Palma, Amanda Plummer, Cosimo Fusco, Teo Halm, Jade Fusco, Sara Anne, Landen Beattie. Spiral Farm screened at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival.
8 out of 10 New Age Crystals