The 28th St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF) is underway in the capital city this week, with five days of film screenings, workshops, panel discussions, forums and more packed into its roster.
The festival arrived on a wave of discussion about women in the film industry, as allegations about assault and harassment arise in Hollywood. Founding director and chair Noreen Golfman stated this is why women’s film festivals exist — to support, encourage, hear, see and believe in women in the film industry.
Golfman thanked the crowd gathered at Cineplex Cinemas for supporting the festival, and expressed her excitement over the film we were about to see.
“Suck It Up,” director Jordan Canning’s second feature-length film, is “decidedly not a Thelma and Louise story,” as the SJIWFF program reads. This line was what hooked me when poring over the roster. I love a good road trip tale — even more so when the road trip isn’t inspired by the patriarchy, sexual assault, victim blaming and fear of a broken judicial system, like Thelma and Louise’s 1991 automobile adventure.
“Suck It Up” instead brings its viewers on a road trip of a different nature. After recently losing her brother Garrett to cancer, Ronnie (Grace Glowicki) is trying unsuccessfully to drown her grief in alcohol. Not knowing how to help her daughter, Ronnie’s mother Dina calls in her distanced former best friend Faye (Erin Carter) to help Ronnie deal with her grief.
The audience soon learns Faye is coping with grief from the same loss — Ronnie’s brother was her ex-boyfriend, and first love.
Deciding that a change of scenery will do them well, Faye loads a sleeping Ronnie into Garrett’s old car, departing for the British Columbia countryside. Upon waking up in the car on the highway, Ronnie is expressly displeased about Faye’s plan to escape harsh reality by heading to the family summer cottage.
As Ronnie, Faye and the audience wind through the Rockies in a blue Mustang, the mountains and valleys represent the highs and lows of the two friends’ mental states, but the real emotional legwork is yet to come.
Dealing with themes of self-loathing, self-medication, self-esteem, self-destruction, self-improvement and self-discovery, Ronnie and Faye use their time in nature to tackle a slew of emotions. Together, in between drinking at dive bars, hanging with old pals, hunting for marijuana, bowling, partying, and working on “Operation Get Faye and Veronica laid,” the friends slowly learn how to deal with the grief and betrayal that they share, in relation to Garrett and their friendship with each other.
Of course, this learning process does not come easily. There are many mistakes, tears, slammed doors and, eventually, a heated fistfight in a mud-wrestling pit at a Canada Day party.
Though it shares commonalities such as dual female leads, a road trip via car and tough-to-tackle topics, Canning’s film is quite a departure from “Thelma and Louise,” which left me feeling sad and disappointed with the world the last time I watched it.
Instead, I left “Suck It Up” thinking that though the world is cruel, a loving friendship can definitely help you “suck it up” much better than just the phrase itself.
The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival runs until Sunday in St. John’s. For festival details, visit www.womensfilmfestival.com.