Review | Intergenerational connection at the heart of ‘Juniper’

Juniper | Dir: Matthew Saville | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Based on memories from his youth, New Zealander Matthew Saville writes and directs his first feature film. As a teenager, his alcoholic grandmother moved in to live with his family while recovering from an illness and the film has been named after the berry used to flavour her drink of preference.

Like Saville’s grandmother, 77 year-old Ruth (Charlotte Rampling) has actually had an incredible life. Once a war photographer, she is now confined to a wheelchair with a broken femur that has never healed and is reliant on help from those around her. But she can drink enough gin to pickle an elephant… and she will know if you try to water it down.

Ruth’s seventeen year old grandson Sam (George Ferrier) becomes the reluctant helper when he is suspended from his boarding school and his father has to go to England to sort out Ruth’s affairs. Saville remembers that three boys took their lives when he was at boarding school, and Sam has had thoughts of taking his own life.

It is a case of age and cunning outwitting youth and enthusiasm every time, and the younger generation having much to learn from the older, incredibly crabby one. Ruth’s gin-soaked outrageous behaviour rescues the film from being totally bleak as she accepts her mortality and rescues Sam from his teenage angst.

Saville says that Juniper “deals with life, love, death, grief, shame and our own mortality. Juniper is a film about the choice we make as humans to live, and to die, how we handle grief and how we embrace life. While the themes are dark, its tone is humorous, and the drama doesn’t have a touch of sentimentality.”

Screening from 4 August at Luna Leederville and Windsor Cinema, Juniper deals with some dark themes but is ultimately uplifting.

Lezly Herbert

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