There’s something wrong with Taryn (Deragh Campbell). We know that from the first scenes of Matthew Porterfield’s observant if uneven drama, as this Northern Irish youngster cuts ties with friends in Ocean City, Maryland, and heads to Baltimore to hang with her musician relatives Kim (Kim Taylor) and Bill (Ned Oldham). Taryn’s problem is easy to guess, though Porterfield withholds the revelation until the story’s midpoint. There’s plenty of other drama to address first, since Kim and Bill are going through a bitter separation, a fact that doesn’t sit well with their daughter, Taryn’s cousin Abby (Hannah Gross).
Porterfield’s third feature, following Hamilton (2006) and Putty Hill (2010), is filled with a number of perceptive grace notes. Campbell and Gross have an exceedingly natural rapport that seems more lived than acted, and the film is especially good whenever it ventures out, doc-like, into the Baltimore music scene that means so much to these characters. Less successful are the sour interactions between Kim and Bill, since nonactors Taylor and Oldham are asked to shoulder several sharp turns of emotion—notably in a lengthy confrontation ruled by alcohol and heartache—that they can’t believably convey. There’s still enough of merit here (particularly a movingly low-key finale that strikes just the right note of reconciliation and regret) to suggest that Porterfield has the chops to eventually hone his talents to a fine point.
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