By Hans Pedersen, February 2016 Issue. Back to Echo’s Desperado 2016 coverage.
Written and directed by Susan Guacci, Stuff is a refreshing portrait of two women in a relationship who are struggling to find meaning and connection as their home life falls apart.
Lead actresses, Karen Sillas (who plays Trish Murdoch) and Yvonne Jung (who plays Deb Murdoch), exude such naturalism in their performances that this indie nearly sparkles with vibrant authenticity.
Trish, a dentist and Deb, a homemaker, are co-parenting two girls – the youngest of which, Samantha, is the victim of a rock-throwing incident. The perpetrator’s mom, Jamie (Traci Dinwiddle), tries to make amends by inviting Deb and their daughter to celebrate her son Joey’s birthday.
Jamie is a tattooed mom who’s always on the run. She inks for a living and has a smoldering look across her face every time she lays her eyes on Deb.
As a result of meet ups in sunlit parks and a family arcade restaurant, a romance develops between Deb and Jamie. When Deb remarks she and Trisha have stopped exercising, Jamie points out, in a smoldering double-entendre, “I could exercise with you.”
Trish, meantime, is in avoidance mode, and appears to be grieving over the death of her father. Feeling compelled to help her mom out, she increasingly ignores her wife and kids and distracts herself with minor home renovations that her father never got to finish.
Although Deb tries to resist her attraction toward the sexy tattoo artist, Trish seems to be dodging her wife whenever she reaches out. Next thing you know, Deb decides that getting a small tattoo seems like the perfect way to get to know Jamie better.
Most endearing in this movie, is the Murdochs’ other daughter, Suzie, who is determined to win the part of narrator in the school play. Her sweetness is hard to resist: “I think this the best day of my life,” she says, holding her mother’s hands on audition day. As Jamie and Deb grow intimate, a conflict soon develops, culminating with a disruption at the opening of the school play.
Also memorable is Phyllis Somerville (“The Big C”) as Trish’s fiesty mother, Ginger, who misses her husband but doesn’t want her daughter to use his death as an excuse to hide from her home life.
The cast simply shines, with every actor contributing their own nuanced, realistic moments in the film. There’s a real crackle in the eyes of each performers as they interact in this suburban milieu. Guacci shot the scenes in Long Island, New York, and sketches out a lovely slice-of-life portrait of these two moms working to find their way back to each other.
While there are no remarkable twists in the rather ordinary story, the fun comes from watching the chemistry between the characters as they navigate the foibles of life.
Stuff will screen at 4 p.m. Jan. 31 as part of the Desperado LGBT Film Festival.