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By Merle Bertrand | November 20, 2001

When Sam (Christopher Curry) and Minny (Veralyn Jones) come into their daughter Lily’s (Keeira Lyn Ford) room wearing extremely long faces, the teenage girl knows that what they’re about to tell her won’t be pleasant. Even so, Lily isn’t even remotely prepared for the news that her mom is dying. Then, all too soon, Minny is gone, leaving her emotional wreck of a husband and her loving daughter behind.
Lost, lonely and despondent, Lily pulls away from her father and retreats into a life of drinking, dabbling with drugs, and ever-more desperate thoughts of suicide. While her father, himself struggling to come to terms with the loss, desperately tries to figure out how to reconnect with his daughter, Lily turns to the occult for answers. After purchasing a book of magic spells, she holds an impromptu seance, desperately trying to reconnect with her late mother even as she drifts closer and closer to the precipice of sanity.
Its little utilized occult trappings aside, “Summoning” is a fairly ordinary account of a shattered family’s grieving process. More to the point, director Jacob Aaron Estes’ film is mostly a character study of Lily; Sam coming into play primarily in terms of his relationship with his troubled daughter.
That’s not to say, however, that “ordinary” is the same thing as “bad” or “ineffective.” To the contrary, Estes’ DV short rings true and touches on real emotions without being too on-the-nose or overly manipulative. Ford is excellent as the despondent daughter while Curry is also very solid, if a bit more uneven, as the hurting widower and father.
Although apparently meant as the film’s big “hook,” the occult element seems fairly tacked on, coming out of the blue and never really feeling properly motivated. As such, it’s a part of this otherwise well done film that feels as forced as it is unconvincing.
Even so, Estes has conjured up a solid film with “Summoning;” a heartfelt and moving pæan to the twin tasks of familial survival and moving on.

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