Directed by Stacie Passon
After a blow to the head, Abby decides she can't do it anymore. Her life just can't be only about the house, the kids and the wife. She needs more: she needs to be Eleanor.
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★★★½ review by Andy Ferguson on Letterboxd
The feature-length writing/directing debut from Stacie Passon, Concussion, plays like a marriage between Belle De Jour and High Art, while at the same time applying its own tone and voice. Although I didn't love this film, I have a high amount of admiration for what Passon is doing with it. The lesbian themes are never treated as something shocking or different, and this makes the central characters very human and believable rather than disrespected pawns.
Complementing Passon's sleek vision behind the camera is a surprisingly effective ensemble cast, which all starts with the relatively unknown Robin Weigert as the main character. Make no mistake about it, this is one of the more difficult central roles I've seen in independent cinema all year, and she proves to be more than capable at making it work. That was the area I was most doubting this film going in, the acting, yet nearly every single performance in Concussion finds the right notes.
Passon is clearly taking it upon herself to add a significant voice among lesbian filmmakers, with a focus on creating more grounded, human relationship dramas, just like we all go through. She had delivered a fine debut, a damn-near great one, and I'm sure she will only get better from here.
★★★½ review by Willow Maclay on Letterboxd
The normative roles we make for ourselves in society are sometimes too constricting, and in Concussion Abby (Robin Weigert, who is fantastic here) reaches a breaking point and decides she must inject something into her life. The bored housewife becomes sex worker is a story that has been told in cinema before (most notably Belle de Jour), but what separates Concussion from most films of this type is that Abby is in a lesbian relationship which is in stark contrast to the way this type of film normally plays out. The way queer rights has been so steadfast in making marriage equality the number one priority in the realm of activism speaks to the idea that queer people can be bored in a marriage just like everyone else. What makes Concussion an interesting film is the way I think Abby eventually feels the restrictive nature of marriage, kids and the house wife gender role and rebels against it to a point where she's having sex with other women for money. I'm not sure if Concussion makes the metaphor of normative lifestyles as prison strong enough, but I certainly think it is there in the way she frames Abby in her own home (surrounded by dull white walls, and piles of laundry). She goes through mental anguish of hearing people around her discuss the most banal boring stories of fixing their houses and talking about their kids, and it's like she's standing around these robotic passionless people (including her wife) and ultimately that leads her to sex work.
It's really interesting how Passon takes the title of the film and goes about creating something murky and dazed in the tone of the imagery and the way the film moves from scene to scene. At times it almost feels surrealist and other times nauseous. The clinical framing of having furniture in all the right places and the blinding whiteness of everything moves to create a tone of a constant dull throbbing, and even when Abby escapes into sex work the whiteness doesn't evaporate for a life full of colour. It's still there and never really goes away. I'm unsure if this points towards Abby subconsciously knowing she would one day return to her wife and all her friends boring conversations at the gym or if these are side effects of the concussion she experiences at the beginning of the film still being present.
The one big fault of the film is how little we actually learn about Abby's family and it reduces some of the emotional heft of the film's later moments to a point where the ending just sort of fizzles out. In one scene near the beginning Abby is discussing a dream she had once about her child and mentioned how she didn't understand if she wanted to kill, fuck, or eat her offspring and it points towards something far more interesting about her family life that sadly is only grazed over. I wouldn't have much of a problem with how dull the rest of her family is in Concussion as a means of displaying how she truly felt about them in this time of her life if Passon hadn't had this earlier scene that hinted at something better than what the family ultimately ended up getting here. It doesn't wreck the film but it certainly holds it back from being great.
★★★★ review by Lee on Letterboxd
Described by many as a sort of feminised American Beauty, but that doesn't really help in distinguishing the objectives of Concussion. It's constructed as a character study of woman in a mid-life crisis, seeking something more, but Passon's film frequently offers comparisons to other films targeting similar subject matter. This isn't a criticism, though. The film is quite beautiful and the themes explored gripped me, but there's little understanding to be had regarding the psychology of the character and what drives her actions. Maybe that's the point, though. Weigert is excellent.
★★★★ review by adelaide on Letterboxd
it would have been nice if there was one person in this movie who wasn't a white brunette middle-aged woman so i could have stopped confusing all the characters
★★★½ review by Ronan Doyle on Letterboxd
Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"
Not yet off the festival circuit in some areas of the world, Staci Passon’s striking drama Concussion arrives on Netflix heralded by its top commenter as “basically a gay Belle du Jour”. That’s a fair, if frigid, descriptor of this fine piece of work, a deeply heartfelt character study that’s first and foremost a look at suburban (dis)satisfaction, regardless of sexuality. Robin Weigert is everything Passon can have hoped for as Abby, the middle class mother of two spurred by a baseball to the head to seek extra-marital interaction as an escort names Eleanor. With the kind of gentle wit that says much of the insecurities it masks, Weigert and a wonderful supporting cast explore the intricacies of this character in eventual, arresting detail. Shooting softly to match her script’s sensitivity, Passon earns attention here easily; her pace isn’t perfect, but she has delivered here a debut that demands her next be awaited intently.
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