Still from OUR FATHER l Courtesy of SXSW

OUR FATHER is the directorial and screenwriting debut of Bradley Grant Smith. The intimate comedy stars Baize Buzan and Allison Torem and will premiere in the Narrative Feature Competition of this year’s online SXSW Film Festival. The SXSW Film Festival notably celebrates raw innovation in cinema and spotlights fresh and emerging talents – in this sense, OUR FATHER is right at home.

Sisters Beta (Baize Buzan) and Zelda (Allison Torem) couldn’t be more different. Both are well-meaning, but both are a bit of a mess when it comes to their personal lives. After their father’s suicide leaves them alone with each other and their disapproving half brothers, the one thing binding these sisters together is the shared desire to find their estranged uncle Jerry.

OUR FATHER is a strange blend of dry humor and sadness. The circumstances and these characters are equal parts tragic and hilarious, with the result being disarming and authentic-feeling. The film endeavors to encapsulate all the good and the bad that define the experience of family through this strange tour of one family’s messy drama.

It’s a pure example of the cinematic voyeur. In my viewing of the film, I did not connect with OUR FATHER so much as feel a sort of passive sympathy. We can all understand this kind of family strife. We all can relate to the hopeless feeling of being the family black sheep, being the person who cleans up after the family black sheep, and the drudgery of trying to create a connection with folks that you share nothing with aside from blood.

As the emotional centers of the film Buzan and Torem do an incredible job in their roles as Beta and Zelda, respectively. OUR FATHER works because the story isn’t played to the dramatic fullest, but instead reaches for something grounded. The two performances strike that careful balance of foil and complement, creating something kind-hearted and emotional. Really fabulous work from these two.

OUR FATHER is a thoughtful and well-constructed feature that speaks to our understanding of family. The film is built on a gritty foundation of broken people that find each other and haphazardly manage to prop each other up. Optimistically, the film is about family and the connections we crave, and the family we make when others let us down. As a character study and actor’s piece, it really works.

The film’s outlook may be bleak and its characters hopeless, but OUR FATHER delivers on a sardonic drama/dark comedy that makes the absolute most of its talented cast.

OUR FATHER held its World Premiere on Wednesday, March 17, at the online SXSW Film Festival 2021.

Caitlin Kennedy
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