In Our Nature

Does a bear shit in the woods?

We’ve all heard that oft-used expression. It’s generally used in a derisive manner when someone has asked an unnecessary question. You know, the answer is so obvious – that not only is an answer not needed, but the question shouldn’t have been asked in the first place. Keep that thought in mind when you take in a film called In Our Nature, an indie film written and directed by Brian Savelson, that I caught at the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival Day 8.

We will start with a pair of 20 somethings: Seth (Zach Gilford) and Andi (Jena Malone) who have decided to head out of New York for a glorious weekend up in the country. Seth’s family has owned a home in the Catskills for years. Seth actually spent childhood summers there.

Andi expected a ‘cabin’ and she’s mildly surprised that the cabin is a fully furnished home with all the modern conveniences set on a pond surrounded by nature’s bounty and not another home or dwelling in sight. A weekend getaway home in the best possible sense. Seth and Andi are so happy to have the place to themselves that moments after unpacking the car they start a passionate round of vacation sex.

Only moments later, they hear a car approaching. People don’t find this place unless they intended to. So who could it be?

Seth gets up and peeks out the window – My God! It’s my father. Get dressed!!!!

Yup, Seth’s Dad is Gil (played by Mad Men’s John Slattery) and he’s got his girlfriend in tow. They too took the opportunity to go for a weekend in the country. Gil has never heard word one about Andi as Seth and Gil have kept their distances over the years.

For that matter, Seth knew nothing about Gil’s friend Vickie ( portrayed by Gabrielle Union) either. It is a rather lengthy driveway and a long walk up to the house so Andi and Seth manage to get their clothes on.

Click link for trailer —-> In Our Nature

Talk about awkward. Father and son can barely be civil to each other. The women stand around looking helpless. That’s how the film begins and that’s not a spoiler as that much is in the trailer.

For the next 90 minutes these four will try to work through their issues. Oh yeah, they all have issues, or maybe you prefer the terms emotional baggage that trails behind them. Even if we can’t settle on putting a name on what we see, it is all so distinctly recognizable and we all know immediately what is in store for us.

But chiefly, in this situation it is the father and son who have had a long and lengthy tormented relationship. Which in the main has been allowed to fall into what you’d probably call distance, or even estrangement.

As an onion is peeled, we watch as the layers of resentment and guilt are peeled off which exposes the underlying anger and bitterness. Often it is disguised in indifference – you know what I mean.

‘You can do what ever you like – it’s your house.’
‘No, you were here first, we’ll leave.’

It takes the women to step up and and suggest that neither couple leave. Let’s stay and have a nice dinner. But the dinner has problems – Andi is a vegan, however Gil tells Vickie she’s a vegetarian instead. So the vegetables that were sauteed in butter are a big problem.

So round and round we go. In this room or that room. Everything Seth does is wrong in the eyes of his quick to disparage father. And from Seth’s perspective his father is a total asshole – he couldn’t remember Andi’s name, he gave the wrong instructions to Vickie about dinner, and he takes business calls during dinner, and He’s always on my case if he pays any attention to me at all.

But things take a different turn when Gil finds Andi out on the back stoop smoking a joint. When Andi offers to share the j, Gil says, “Nah, I haven’t smoked pot in 35 years…” but seconds later he says, “What the hell…,” and proceeds to get buzzed.

Meanwhile Seth goes for a walk with Vickie and they end up in a tree house… talking.

Later the pairings change, or the locations change and we have lots more talk and lots more revelations.

Gil drops into a Neanderthal mode and starts to discuss how men were better at figuring out the space/time/distance requirements necessary to throw a spear or shoot an arrow at a moving target and hence – men evolved into hunters.

Vickie cuts Gil off and says with disdain what she expected Gil to say – yeah and the women were better at pulling the tomatoes off the vines and arranging flowers – so women became the gatherers.

Which got a hearty laugh.

Later that night, Gil and Seth are discussing something out by the pond – “Didja ever notice that women have different kind of blood than we men have. That’s why the flies are always attracted to the women.” Gil follows that with, “In the future, that will be the only valid reason to have hetero-sexual relationships.”

Lots of laughter with that one, but to me – it was straight out of Tim Allen’s Men are Pigs stand up comedy routines.

So the long and short of it is that this film is a distant descendant of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf penned long ago as a theatrical play by Edward Albee before Liz and Dickie, and Segal and Dennis did it on screen.

Yes, those are the roots – 4 people set in a place where differences must be worked out. Only this time, they’re not going to be resolved. There’s a settlement of a kind, and yet we don’t feel impacted or vindicated. Initially we find it easy to pick a victim , and root for the victim to overcome the oppressor. But there will come a time – when we feel that maybe the so called victim is not really a victim.

Ostensibly, this film is a drama – there’s laughs here and there, and some typical gender roles are trotted out for examination. And are sure to offend. But instead of riling up the audience because of the verbal slicing and dicing, like what happened In Virginia Woolf – this one is much kinder and gentler or softer with far fewer sharp edges. And plays at a slow pace – too slow if you ask me.

By that I mean that neither Gil nor Seth are without blame, and neither one is worthy of the audiences’ support. Andi and Vickie fare better in our eyes but this is only because their roles have less weight/importance to them. They haven’t done enough to earn our disfavor.

From another perspective – the outdoors settings were visually beautiful, but the story might have been more potent had it occured in a city apartment.

I did say, the foursome reaches a settlement of a kind. And there’s a responsible party – and that would be the good old bear, who as we all know, shits in the woods. Really.

Three point five out of five.