Mary Kay Place is tough and affecting as Diane, an active, ageing woman suffocating from a misplaced sense of shame that forces her to help everyone before herself. Her one flight of egoism haunts the present, psychologically undercutting her attempts at altruism and philanthropy. She burdens herself ridiculously.
Diane’s heroin-addled son Brian is the most immediate concern. It’s a difficult role for Jake Lacy, one that fulfils a bemusing trajectory: from drug-induced stupor to wide-eyed redemption through to wise acknowledgement. The protagonist’s reactions to every development are believably conflicted. Coaxing loved ones into health, denying the revelation, absorbing home truths – it’s shattering. It’s testament to Place that she embodies this exhaustion.
In Massachusetts, a community circles around Diane. Families are bound together by the snow-tipped pines, pushed round dinner tables, stood side-by-side at soup kitchens. The ensemble cast of ageing friends and relatives is remarkable: Estelle Parsons, Joyce Van Patten, Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell and Phyllis Somerville all offer steely, sharp comic support and earnest advice to our beset protagonist.
First-time director Kent Jones doesn’t shy from tackling loss and regret. Grieving is an almost permanent state. This could have become a maudlin production line of misery, but Place expertly manages the complex of opposites, Diane’s mixture of tenderness and disdain. Bastions fall apart around her. The solitary home life overwhelms. The apparent source of Brian’s parental contempt lies dying in a hospital bed.
The dream sequences and nods to Emily Dickinson are awkward and strained, but fraught emotions are left rightly unresolved. The nature of grudges and forgiveness deserve that much. Acerbic quips bring edge to the regular introspection. But above others, one simple refrain lingers: she loved you. Comfort, not revelation, is buried in the past participle.
Diane does not have a UK release date yet.