Debra Eisenstadt’s Blush, which was first presented at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, likens midlife and its challenges to a second adolescence. The protagonist, Cathy (Wendi McLendon-Covey), is a wife and mother in her forties whose existence is suddenly shaken by doubts, an urge for excitement and the need to redefine her identity.
The lead is tied to her daily routines, which she performs with great care. Her husband and her teenage daughter don’t seem to acknowledge her much and, when they do, they are detached and cold in their interactions. The forty-something mother has a tendency to internalise, and her mounting unexpressed needs are leading her to a breaking point. When her sister asks her to cat-sit at her messy house, Cathy meets the dysfunctional family next door. Repelled yet seduced by their chaos, she gets mixed up in their outlandish lives. This entanglement helps her unleash her dormant waywardness but also exposes her vulnerabilities.
The premise of the film is an engaging one, namely, that order and control can be just as damaging as a total disregard for structure. However, the element that prevents the story from seeming realistic is that the conflicts and the characters’ erratic behaviours are overdone. McLendon-Covey portrays the protagonist’s inner journey very effectively, but the actions that Cathy takes seem drawn from a list of clichés associated with losing the way and misbehaving. This simplification detracts from the potential of the narrative.
Eisenstadt puts a lot on the plate and there are many moments that invite reflection, especially when considering what is right or wrong and how this changes depending on whose perspective is considered. The movie would have benefited from shedding some of its material; when it’s subtle and focussed it does gain poignancy. This is shown, for instance, when it becomes clear that Cathy’s loved ones feel as emotionally neglected by her as she does by them.
Blush is at its best when it deals with raw and subdued emotions, but it loses potency by cramming too many hot topics and then letting them peter out rather than reach a satisfying, conflict-driven climax.
Blush is released digitally on demand on 22nd February 2021.
Watch the trailer for Blush here: