Director Jordan Canning’s “Suck It Up” is matted by clammy palms, punctuated by aorta straining regret, and earmarked by teeth baring frustration. It’s a road trip movie that circumvents artifice and carbonation, and digs its soles into the worn floor mats of friendship, love, and identity. Faye (Erin Carter) is submerged in an existential and career focused crisis. She volleys hard, clumsily sidesteps, and finds a way, more often than not, to miss the return serve. Faye buzzes and hums with self-effacing uncertainty. Ronnie (Grace Glowicki), meanwhile, is tailspinning in a helix of engine smoke. Walking in staccato patterns, self-medicating with force, and supplanting her emotions with extracurricular activities, Ronnie is like pressure applied to bubble wrap. The two protagonists are whirring tops headed to the ledge of a table.
The root of the pair’s shared emotional malaise is Garrett, Faye’s first love and Ronnie’s brother. Having passed from cancer, only two months earlier, Garrett is a phantom limb between the two friends. In a routinely optimistic, if somewhat misplaced, road trip of animated distractions and blacktop mashing adventure, Faye and Ronnie, somewhat begrudgingly, trek up to a pastoral British Columbia in hopes that their mutual pain will be treated.
The exchanges of dialogue, between Erin Carter and Grace Glowicki, feel textural, free of artifice, and wholly tangible. There’s glib quips in “Suck It Up”, but none of them feel whip smart to the point of being flippantly arrogant – we’re free of Aaron Sorkin adrenaline shots or Mike Mills snark. And because the interpersonal battles exist in a fashion that feel of sincerity, the pangs of panic hit with true force. It helps that Carter and Glowicki give two incredibly multilayered and uncompromising performances. Two other actors could have misunderstood the emotional geography of the characters, easily.
Playing at Slamdance, “Suck It Up” utilizes music, spatial awareness, and the unpredictable nature of grief as a compass for compassion and discovery. Tops of trees billow with wind, friendship is reconstituted from embers, and the finite minutes of our life are reduced to printed handwriting. Jordan Canning’s picture is a valuable turnkey to empathy in this crazy Coney Island ride that is 2017.