Juniper (2023) Review

The whole character development of a resentful, been-there-done-that war correspondent has become a cliche in the art of film nowadays, knowing that they possess all the knowledge there is to act in such a world. But, we may be able to push away from that facetious remark here as Charlotte Rampling, who plays the hard-drinking, obstinate elderly Ruth, adds great depth to her arrogant character. Juniper, although predictable at times, does offer a rewarding, affecting experience thanks to its titular pair.

Ruth is brought to New Zealand by her son to recuperate from her health and an injured leg, but she also becomes bonded with her grandson Sam (George Ferrier), who is dealing with boarding school problems and is ticked over the loss of his mother. He rebels with such a visceral hatred and goes the distance to tempt us; he might be willing to end his life rather than continue to progress. Fortunately, the white horse that hangs around the house (a reminder of his late mother) and Ruth offer great solace in trying to dissuade his dark thoughts.

The dialogue and interactions between them are well-written, allowing the harsh attitudes from both to dissipate slowly as they open up about past traumas and experiences. At one point, they insult each other, and then after moments of desolation, they start sharing some tender experiences and drinking together. The themes of dysfunction and alcoholism are prevalent here, and director Matthew Saville showcases how it all echoes unsatisfyingly from generation to generation. Black humor gets to shine in sporadic bits, and the cinematography for rural New Zealand vibrates splendidly.

Ferrier and Rampling give worthwhile performances in the 94-minute affair, ensuring the viewer remains spellbound from beginning to end in a generational tale.

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