This week in in my movie class, we saw the drama “In Our Nature” – an independent film starring Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery and Gabrielle Union.
When a father and his grown son accidentally find themselves at the family vacation house simultaneously, they’re forced to confront each other to deal with their issues – but will their respective girlfriends be of assistance or get in the way?
One summer morning, Seth (Gilford) and his girlfriend Andie (Malone) embark on the two and a half hour drive from Brooklyn to his family’s vacation house in upstate New York to spend a romantic weekend alone. Unfortunately, once they are there and in the process of making The Beast With Two Backs, they are caught in flagrante delicto by Seth’s father Gil (Slattery) and his own much-younger girlfriend Vicky (Union), who have also planned a nice romantic weekend of their own.
While both couples toy with the idea of vacating to allow the other to enjoy the space, the women finally agree that all four of them should stay and share the place together for the entire weekend. Resolved not to ruin the time for their women, the two men begrudgingly agree to remain at the house, despite the awkwardness it would obviously create. One thing that the women aren’t yet aware of – but will soon learn the hard way – is that their men have experienced something of a strained relationship with each other throughout the years.
Gradually, it becomes evident to both Andie and Vicky that Seth and Gil struggle to be civil to each other. Ultimately, this highlights weaknesses in the relationship these women are having with their men as well, causing increasing tension around this pastoral setting. Andie is insulted when she discovers that Seth has withheld information about her from Gil, while Vicky is equally hurt when it is perceived that she has ulterior motives for being with Gil. Despite the fractious nature in this placid environment, can these four people manage to make peace with each other?
Admittedly, I’m a big fan of the AMC television series “Mad Men”, so I’m a bit prejudiced here when it comes to John Slattery. I found his performance in this movie to be very reminiscent of his character on that show; however, whether it’s merely my perception or his own screen persona alone is hard to say. While watching “In Our Nature”, I kept thinking Slattery had improvised his character’s lines because they just seemed so much more clever and interesting than everyone else’s.
As for the rest of the film, it is considerably less exciting. For one thing, it seems quite a bit like the hit Broadway play and movie “On Golden Pond” revisited. First, since it’s set in a single location, it very much has the look and feel of a stage play -- even though the story is taken outside of the house in many scenes, it nevertheless feels a bit claustrophobic. Second, there’s the obvious fact that the vacation house is what triggers a good deal of the central action. Finally, the story focuses on a parent-child relationship, although instead of daughter-father, it is about son-father. The title of the movie doesn’t help much either; it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.
Prior to the screening, our instructor interviewed the film’s producer Anish Savjani and its writer/director Brian Savelson. Savelson said that he wound up meeting Savjani after viewing another movie he produced (“Wendy & Lucy”) and decided that Savjani might be interested in his film. Following the screening, “In Our Nature”’s star Zach Gilford was interviewed. Gilford talked about how he grew up in a suburb of Chicago and knew he wanted to act since childhood; with his parents’ support, he attended college where he studied acting and later went on to do TV work, including “Friday Night Lights”.