Starring Noah Urrea, Kolton Stewart and Sofia Rosinsky
Directed by Scott Boswell
With a nod to the dreamlike opening to Paul Brickman’s 1983 classic “Risky Business,” writer/director Scott Boswell’s “A Wake,” opens (and ends) with an ambient melancholy led by a moody score from Tim Halo.
After the death of a teenager, his family struggles with the emotions of loss that come with his passing. Their family dynamic has been shattered, yet we find out that it was never stable in the first place.
Mason (a solid Noah Urrea) is trying his damnedest to come to terms with the loss of his twin brother Mitchel (also Urrea), who died of an overdose.
Mitchel’s wake is on the horizon and Mason must make the important decision of whether to include his brother’s boyfriend, Jameson (a very good Kolton Stewart). No one in the family was aware of Mitchel’s secret and Mason sees this as a chance for his family to come to the truth behind their son’s life and tragic death.
The parents are religious and do not accept (nor want to face) their son’s homosexuality. Their children don’t see eye to eye with their parent’s views and trouble begins immediately when their oldest daughter Megan (Megan Trout, giving the performance of the film) comes home for Mitchel’s wake.
As their OCD-plagued youngest daughter Molly (Sofia Rosinsky) orchestrates the setting up of the wake, family secrets come to the forefront and confrontations are inevitable.
The drama in Boswell’s screenplay slowly unfolds as the family is shaken by Jameson’s attendance. It is Molly who remembers aloud the time she found Mitchel and Jameson kissing. An immediate ignorance from the adults sweeps the room and everyone is thrown off by the revelation.
This is a film about tolerance. For the parents of this family (Emilie Talbot and Kevin Kerrick), tolerance is almost nonexistent.
The mother does not trust Jameson and worries he might be into drugs as well. The father is not suspicious as much as uncomfortable with the young man’s infringement on a time that should be only for close family.
In 2009, the American Psychological Association found a higher rate of mental health problems among LGBTQ+ teens due to the added pressure of their parent’s rejection.
Being a teenager is tough enough. To be LGBTQ+ in today’s American high schools is even harder. Acceptance of sexual lifestyles is not easily found in this country, especially over the last four years, with 2021 proving to be a dangerous time for human rights in the United States.
Let alone that Christianity in this country and homosexuality have a bad (and hypocritical!) relationship.
As screenwriter, Bosewell takes on these issues with conviction. Using a death and a wake to confront familial crisis is a familiar trope before but the director and his cast make the drama hit.
While the finale of family bonding moments is abrupt and lacks in authenticity, the impact of the film’s message remains intact.
There is nevertheless an honesty to Boswell’s work here and to the characters that populate his film. While a few feel cliched in the way they behave and the things they say, listen to many of the conservative minds in today’s America. Their talking points are simplistic if not puerile.
What is great about the director’s crafting of the overly religious adults in the family is how he shows their commitment to their archaic social values but allows each one scenes that reveals a humanity. There just may be a kind soul underneath the close-mindedness. We only hope this is true in real life. Perchance to dream.
“A Wake” is a film that asks us all to see beyond someone’s sexual identity and take stock of the struggle that many go through, on the journey to find themselves in a world that shuns them.
Mitchel’s story is one of millions.