Tribeca Festival US Narrative Competition
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Ben Snyder
Writer: Ben Snyder, Elizabeth Rodriguez
Cast: Elizabeth Rodriguez, Liza Colon-Zayas, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Felix Solis, Max Casella, Michael Rispoli, Shyrley Rodriguez, MacKenzie Lansing, and J. Cameron Barnett
Screened at: Critics’ link, NY, 4/16/22
Opens: June 13th, 2022
The decision to become a parent is not one that people take lightly, and there may be any number of factors involved that impact the timing and very possibility of it. For some, getting married and having babies is part of the life plan, and they are fortunate enough to be able to find the right person and get pregnant without any issues. Others long for that but aren’t able to fulfill it and must consider other options, including IVF, surrogacy, adoption, single parenting, or the ultimate conclusion not to have children at all. And some don’t have any desire to bring life into this world and mold it, but everyone is someone’s child and brings their own experiences of family to their outlook on how they should craft their legacy.
Allswell focuses on three women, Daisy (Elizabeth Rodriguez), her sister Ida (Liza Colon-Zayas), and her sister-in-law Serene (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Daisy, who spends her days operating a restaurant, is immeasurably excited for the arrival of her surrogate, who is moving into her home during her final weeks of pregnancy so that they can prepare together for the baby. Ida, a counselor at a clinic, finds herself being sucked into the troubles of her brother, who has not been around and close in a long time. Serene, a former pop star and current vocal coach, steps into her daughter’s life to stop her from going down a dangerous path that she can’t see is all but guaranteed not to end well.
This is a film about women and the way in which they move through the world, and how there are often burdens put upon them that they didn’t ask for but with which they must interact. It’s all tied in to their family relationships and the way in which they have grown up understanding the meaning of parents and siblings and children. Daisy is so attached to what she believes will soon come and can’t imagine a way that it won’t work out, while Serene sees herself in her daughter and wants to prevent her from making the same mistakes. Ida has already seen what happens in adulthood with her brother yet feels a responsibility to be there for him since she knows she may be able to provide what he needs in that moment.
At the center of Allswell is a trio of superb performances, led by the always excellent Rodriguez, who also serves as co-screenwriter with director Ben Snyder. Each of these roles feels lived in, and the greater context of how the family functions and has functioned is filled in over the course of the film by how they relate to one another. There are plenty of things that could be better and things that they could say to each other, but they still have a bond that cannot be broken by time or even by disastrous and seemingly unforgivable actions. This is merely a snapshot of a brief moment in their adult lives, but it’s an immensely compelling one.
There is also an element of Allswell that speaks to their heritage and the place in while they live, channeling their Puerto Rican roots and their New York environment to add to the richness of their personalities. Neither defines them but both absolutely contribute to who they are, and that makes the film more accessible for those with their own cultural connections that make them feel separate from the rest of the world yet embraced by a population of people they’ve never met who share the same values. That stands out as a message of this film: the universality of unique and particular experiences, something that everyone should be able to stop and recognize as a linking factor between even the most seemingly disparate of perspectives.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+