Juniper berries have traditionally been used for anti-arthritic, anti-diabetic and antiseptic purposes. They are, however, more commonly known as a key ingredient in gin, making Juniper a fitting title for a picture that features a thick-skinned Charlotte Rampling, who appears to guzzle the stuff by the gallon on a daily basis in the rural pastures of New Zealand.
Grieving the death of his mum, Sam (George Ferrier) is a teenager dialled to self-destruct, suspended from school for his behavioural issues and locked away at home. However, he isn’t alone: as punishment, he finds himself responsible for looking after his immobile, feisty and obscenely alcoholic grandmother, Ruth (Charlotte Rampling), whilst his father is in England. Both troubled in their own thorny ways, they clash but soon enough begin to find solace through each other’s company, creating a positive charge out of all the negativity, despite Ruth’s health and energy slowly fading away.
With Martyn Williams’s breathtaking cinematography accompanying tranquil moments of heartfelt dialogue, scene by scene one is engulfed in the ever-developing relationship of this grandmother and grandchild, who, like newborn babies, start from scratch, making connections that will eventually become unbreakable bonds of love. There is a tenderness to the portrayal of the evolving dynamic that draws viewers in to become a part of the family as the days unwind.
First-time feature director Matthew J Saville is blessed to have cast Charlotte Rampling, who brings an immense joy to her role. The background to her character (experienced and hardened war reporter) is a bit clichéd and not entirely necessary to the plot, but, nonetheless, Juniper truly is all about Rampling, who continues to be in terrific form. The young Ferrier also delivers an appealingly bashful performance as Sam, and will no doubt be appearing on our screens again in the future.
The movie doesn’t go anywhere in particular, instead choosing to focus on the developing relationship between one deteriorating lead and the coming-of-age the other, but there is a sense of comfort to be found in merely observing the duo becoming more contented in each other’s company. Yes, there could be more to the story arc, but the counterargument would be “what?”. There isn’t too much to add to this solid film that holds no surprises. One can see where the story is going, but it doesn’t make it any less moving when the anticipated moment does come and the final scenes leave viewers satisfied with the simple journey they have just experienced.
Juniper is released in select cinemas on 23rd September 2022.
Watch the trailer for Juniper here: