Film: “Hello I Must Be Going” Hits Home

[My review of the new film ‘Hello I Must Be Going’ for Short and Sweet LA.]

Hello I Must Be Going features familiar face Melanie Lynskey (Up In the AirTwo and a Half Men) as timid thirty-something Amy, a reluctant divorcée returned home to lick her wounds. More despondent than bitter, she is blind-sided by her husband’s decision to leave her after sacrificing her own dreams to loyally support him. She seeks refuge in her parents’ (played by Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein) seemingly lavish New England spread, taking that comfort to the ultimate level of living in the same single ratty t-shirt for months and essentially reducing herself to a recluse.

Enter the son of one of her father’s prestigious clients– a smoldering 19-year-old actor, Jeremy (Christopher Abbott, Marnie’s sad sack ex Charlie on HBO’s Girls), who should surely be off limits and is certain to cure what ails the downtrodden Gen-Xer. It’s like if How Stella Got Her Groove Back was instead penned by Lena Dunham herself.

There are elements of films like The Graduate and Garden State, the confusion of returning to what you think is home and discovering that, after certain milestones in life, one’s true “home” is to be made, not revisited. Even after three months, the haze of heartbreak is somehow strong enough to eclipse Amy’s situation’s outside conflicts and keep her from realizing she needs to move on, in more ways than one.

Her parents could lose their home if Pops doesn’t land the big client and seal the deal enabling him to finally retire. Her mother exists in a suspended state of quiet malaise, filling her emptiness with expensive abstract art and daydreams of going away to Europe with her husband. Her brother is jealous of how Amy’s issues are afforded such drama, and pleads for his father’s retirement so he can be in charge of the family firm. And, of course, there is the fact that romance with a boy at least a decade her junior can’t last.

Amy awakens and soon struggles to newly regain independence from the confines of her family, where she’s relegated to being coddled as a sort of sad black sheep, and shine outside the shadow of a relationship with a man: whether her enamored teenaged fling, unapologetic ex-husband, her envious and petty brother, or self-absorbed father.

Selected as the opening night film for Sundance 2012, Hello I Must Be Going screenwriter Sarah Koskoff’s story is nothing if not precise. Though the emotions are not subtle, it doesn’t keep them from being relatable. Hello I Must Be Going is the coming home story as probable as it is watchable– it engrosses you because it could easily be you.

Hello I Must Be Going opens in Los Angeles on September 7 at the Landmark Theatre.

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