On the surface, the premise of this film could easily make you turn up your nose. A comedy set during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic? I know I wasn’t initially interested, but lo and behold, this movie is a lot of fun. Recovery manages to make us laugh at some of our most extreme behaviors back in early 2020, but never makes fun of the actual tragedy. That’s what sets things apart for this SXSW title. Especially now that we’re seeing the start of the light at the end of the tunnel, looking back for laughs makes a bit of sense. It’s far from a perfect flick, but in making you giggle, it does more than enough to justify its existence.
Recovery is a road trip comedy, with the hook being that it requires our main characters to leave the protection of home during a pandemic. In normal times, it would be a simple premise that many an independent film would take up. Here, we still have an indie production, but one with the added oomph of the Coronavirus. Yet, somehow the movie never becomes a downer, which it all too easily could have been, or something where the jokes fall flat. That’s not the case here.
Sisters Jamie (Whitney Call) and Blake (Mallory Everton) Jerikovic know how to have a good time. They’re in the prime of their lives when the COVID-19 pandemic begins in March of 2020, halting everything. Stuck at home, they’re at least trying to make the best of it, but circumstances are about to shake them up. Their Nana (Anne Sward Hansen) is in a nursing home, one that’s decidedly not safe. Risking their own health, yet taking fairly extreme precautions, they set out to go pick her up and bring her back home with them.
As they travel to rescue Nana, not only do the sisters meet a couple of unusual individuals, they’re dealing with various issues on the phone. Jamie has a rather odd student and an overbearing mother to handle, for example. Then, when their awful other sister Erin (Julia Jolley) announces that she’s able to grab Nana, despite essentially being a poster child for how not to act during COVID, they’re spurred to make sure they don’t let their grandmother down.
Both Whitney Call and Mallory Everton are tremendously funny here. Their riffs, whether improvised or scripted (likely both) are both broadly humorous, but also incredibly charming. No one else in the cast can stack up to them, mainly because every supporting player is basically playing one single note. Call and Everton, however, have layers to them, and rightly so, considering they’re the center of attention.
Along with Stephen Meek, Mallory Everton directs Recovery, while co-writing with co-star Whitney Call. It’s simple yet effective work for Everton and Meek behind the camera. The script, by Call and Everton, is far more the star, behind the scenes. There’s a ton of personality on display, and that helps set this picture apart. The scenes featuring other cast members skew a little too broad and zany, but when it’s just the leads, there’s low-key magic here. Call and Everton are the main selling point, by far.
Recovery has the ability to find humor in a horrid situation. Call, Everton, and Meek deserve kudos for that. Playing at SXSW, audiences who check this flick out will get more than their fair share of laughs out of it. Moreover, you won’t be depressed because of the COVID-19 references. Somehow, the trio pulled that off. When this one hits screens after a festival run, it’s well worth seeking out.