Phil Harding’s The Reunion turns a seemingly mild existential crisis into a full-blown thriller. The crisis at hand is this idea that we can never move on with life until we confront the past — the operative word here is “confront.”
Ricky (Dave Rosenberg) is a failed actor desperate to search for his center. Looking for peace and direction, he turns to yoga, meditation, and regularly takes the advice of his spiritual advisor Danny (Dihn Doan). Then, while getting a cup of coffee, Ricky spots the man who in high school gave him a severe beating for making out with his ex-girlfriend. This single moment sets off a series of cosmic coincidences, most notably an invitation to his high school reunion.
The reunion is the moment Ricky has been waiting for to move on with life. All he has to do is confront his high school bully. Though guru Danny questions if this is the right path, Ricky’s best friend Andy (Andrea Modica) convinces him that these events are more than coincidences and teaches him how to fight. Also, Ricky meets photographer Natalie (Cara Ronzetti), taking photos of random people in the park for an upcoming art exhibition. She took pictures of Ricky in the past and now notices a change and resolve in him, and the two became fast lovers.
What director Harding and writer/star Rosenberg do with the story of The Reunion is turn Ricky’s obsession with his past into a “spiritual thriller.” They take a single humiliating event — Ricky being beaten up — and heighten its impact on his life. It’s almost as if there’s a separate thriller-like film running in Ricky’s mind.
“…the moment Ricky has been waiting for to move on with life. All he has to do is confront his high school bully.”
Paranoia is one of those elements. One running theme is a well-known story Danny tells Ricky about a battle between a good and evil wolf, where the winner is the one you feed the most. After a bad trip with some party drugs, Ricky begins hallucinating these wolves in a battle for his soul. Natalie soon becomes Rickey’s counter-balancing force, but she has her own trauma to deal with. Is Ricky the right person to be in a relationship with? Slowly Ricky’s life spins out of control, which perfectly segues to the confrontation at “the reunion.”
The Reunion is a gorgeous film from start to finish. Great attention is given to every shot in terms of composition, lighting (yes, including lens flares), camera movement, and several effects shots. These great choices effectively contrast Ricky’s reality with his many dream and flashback scenes. In addition, the cinematography is awe-inspiring for an independent film and only enhances the emotions.
There’s a great storytelling idea behind the narrative. At its bare bones, it’s a guy who can’t find his true self because of a single painful event in his past. This event negatively affects every aspect of his life — dream fulfillment, inner peace, and love. These events are a reality for many of us in our personal lives. The film exemplifies how carrying the burdens of our past prevents us from reaching our true potential. We either find a way to diffuse it, or we just sit back and let it explode.
Films like The Reunion are why I appreciate independent films. It takes storytelling risks and is incredibly thoughtful about its highly relatable subject matter. Sadly, Big Hollywood would never bankroll these kinds of risks or tell stories of the ordinary person’s struggles.
For more information visit The Reunion’s official website.
"…a gorgeous film from start to finish."