Life Inside Out (NR)

Drama 102 min. October 17, 2014
By Katherine Vu
People enjoying reasonably happy marriages and comfortable relationships with their families are not often the focus of films; their lives, filled with mundane complaints and muted victories, meander along at too glacial a pace for traditional 90-minute narratives. Yet Life Inside Out — written by Maggie Baird and Lori Nasso, and directed by Jill D'Agnenica — succeeds in weaving a compelling tale about a middle-aged, married woman whose sole great feat is quietly letting one dream go in order to embrace a new one.

Laura, played by Baird, is a housewife seeking employment after the demise of her family-owned store. The frustrations of her life are plentiful: a priggish sister, an ailing father, more bills to pay than paychecks, and a bustling household full of boys to manage. Worn down, she finds renewed purpose in her childhood love of music. In songwriting, she bonds with her angsty, withdrawn teenage son, Shane (Finneas O'Connell), who has inherited her musicality and artistic temperament.

Strong, understated performances from Baird and O'Connell bring real intimacy to their characters' sometimes-strained mother-son dynamic. In a film that otherwise falters toward a predictable conclusion and easy stereotypes -- Laura's corn-fed husband, Mike, exists solely to jaw about Shane's lack of athleticism and perpetually seems two seconds away from cracking open a beer and collapsing into his La-Z-Boy to watch the ballgame -- Laura and Shane breathe. Their affections and gripes feel storied. When the telegraphed feel-good moments arrive, the smiles feel unforced.
Jill D'Agnenica Emma Bell, John Bain, David Cowgill, Alexandra Wilson, Maggie Baird, Emily Jordan, Finneas O'Connell, Kalilah Harris, Joe Hart, William Dennis Hunt Maggie Baird, Lori Nasso

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