We are all connected by grief. Our ability to be deeply affected by the deaths of others unites us as humans, and countless films have made hay out of our shared ability, or inability, to come to terms with the emotions that death can leave behind. Director Jordan Canning mined some of his territory in her earlier We Were Wolves, but in 2017’s Suck It Up she shifts gears in the form of an odd-couple buddy comedy with mixed, though rewarding, results.
Our two main characters here are familiar, almost slipping into cliche at first. There’s the repressed, (mostly) responsible Faye (Erin Margurite Carter), who is angling for a teaching job while trying to care for former best friend Ronnie (a pretty spectacular Grace Glowicki) who has gone on a wild, alcoholic tear since the death of her brother, who also happened to be Faye’s ex-boyfriend. Faye kidnaps Ronnie and brings her to the family cabin, where they slowly and reluctantly bond over their shared grief, even while family secrets slowly reveal themselves.
While some of the beats might be overly predictable, it’s the interplay between the two leads, and some of the peculiar (but not irritatingly so) characters they encounter that makes the journey worthwhile. At first – and for a good chunk of what follows – Ronnie seems completely irredeemable. She’s irritating, childish and self-destructive, but also transparently damaged by her brother’s death. Faye is more of a question mark, and her anguish initially leaks out in quiet moments, her veneer of pragmatism slowly worn away by the time the two face off during a Canada Day bash. It’s a confrontation that is a long time coming, and is predictably – and appropriately – messy.
The film is blessed with some lovely cinematography by Guy Godfree, who deftly captures the gorgeous mountainous British Columbia scenery, while relying on handheld cameras to make use of the limited space inside the cabin where much of the action takes place. Also sharp is the script from Julia Hoff, which balances a predictable plot with smart, naturalistic dialogue that smartly avoids being too stylized. Faye and Ronnie both get some clever zingers in, but it never feels like they have the same voice, or that their lines are over-rehearsed.
I was left unimpressed by the abrupt resolution, but after all the secrets leak out in a memorably – and intentionally – crass way, there isn’t really anywhere else to go. This is a film about finding peace with the death of those closest to us, and the ways we can hurt the ones we love while trying to protect them. It makes for an occasionally rocky road from start to finish, but Canning finds moments of real emotion in the final act, with plenty of laughs along the way.