Directed by Anna Odell
A film between fiction and reality, highlighting questions about group dynamics and established hierarchies. A group of people meet for their high school reunion 20 years later. One of them talks about her being bullied and outcast and soon the former classmates fall back to the roles they used to have back in school. But this is just half of the film.
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★★★½ review by C.J. on Letterboxd
The comparisons between Festen and Close-Up are about as dead-on as you can get. Anna Odell, playing herself, shows up to a 20 year high school reunion where she finally lets out her years of pent-up frustration. Odell was bullied and treated as an outcast throughout her school years, and she uses the opportunity to give a painful speech about how miserable her childhood was. The speech naturally makes everyone else uncomfortable and, devastatingly, go back to treating her like an outcast.
At that point Odell goes into scorched earth mode, and things get even more painful to watch. The reunion is only the first half of Odell's film, with its second half going into sadder meta territory. It turns out that Odell never got invited to her real-life reunion, inspiring her to make the imaginary reunion she'll never experience. Odell begins to contact her real-life classmates, asking if they'll come and watch her short film. Unsurprisingly they turn out to not be far off from how she remembers them. They dodge her calls, shift blame onto others as to why she wasn't invited and treat her with animosity.
The second half is slightly disappointing in its presentation; presumably nobody agreed to be on camera, so these confrontations are nothing more than re-enactments. The concept is a truly exciting one, and Odell makes for a fascinating subject, but the absence of direct testimony dampens the impact Odell wants to make. Clearly she wants to hear from her classmates to get a perspective other than hers, but ultimately what we see is her interpretation of these perspectives.
Still, it's a fascinating look at how the kind of social structures established early on in life can never change. The personal, meta qualities that Odell brings to it (some passing references to her previous works throughout the film will be lost on audiences not familiar with Odell's work, specifically a public stunt she pulled years ago that made national news) will throw viewers for a loop, but in a good way of course.
★★★★ review by Xplodera on Letterboxd
This movie could just as well be named after the newly resurrected Lisa Kudrow-series The Comeback because after Anna Odell's very criticized art-project involving her faking a psychosis, the triumphant The Reunion got her some well-deserved praise. While this movie is very personal for Odell, it feels as a big redress for everyone that has ever felt some kind of bullying in their school-years.
In a very interesting artistic choice, the movies first half is a fictionalized imagination of how Anna shows up at a class reunion after 20 years and starts questioning her former classmates and the second half shows reenactments of how her real former classmates reacted when she showed them the first part. When you've wrapped your head around that you get a very interesting - but not necessarily successful - kind of movie.
The first half reminds me a lot about another Swedish director - Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure, Play) - in that it consists of very socially painful conversations and situations, but all played with such realism. It's really gripping and the great acting from both Odell herself and the other (mostly pretty unknown) actors makes it all seem very real. It's 45 minutes of pure brilliance and is so fascinating all throughout.
And then we have the second half, which sadly doesn't really live up to the great stuff in the first half. My biggest problem is that it feels to long, the credits starts rolling around the 80-minute mark so it's not long in that sense - but since so few of Odell's former classmates chose to participate we many scenes which feels like filler and to few of the great interviews and confrontations between these people for the first time in 20 years.
It's debatable whether this movie really says something new about the subject matter, but in my eyes - that's not what Anna is after. Rather than showing a unique angle on bullying, the movie shows just what bullying looks like and does to people. And the down-to-earth simplicity in that approach together with the twist in storytelling makes The Reunion a hard hitting drama that is much recommended.
★★★★ review by Chris Hormann on Letterboxd
I'm still not quite sure to make of this film - it has put me in quite a spin after a long day at the Film Fest. A clever narrative structure which provides a twist mid-film. The past may be another country to some, but here it's a place to hide inconvenient truths, ones that Anna Odell seeks to reveal. An enigma but no less interesting for that.
★★★★ review by Anny on Letterboxd
Please, let's make that first half last forever.
★★★½ review by Metin Seven on Letterboxd
A refreshingly original crossover between a movie and a documentary. The acting is very natural, also because all the actors bear their real names. And the relationship between fiction and reality doesn't stop there.
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