Screen legend Charlotte Rampling is magnificently ferocious as a reluctant invalid, estranged bad grandma Ruth in Matthew J Saville’s debut Juniper.
In the Midst of Lifeby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
With her own nurse (Edith Poor) in tow, Ruth (Charlotte Rampling) descends like a force of nature on her son (Marton Csokas) and grandson on their farm in New Zealand, allegedly to recuperate from a broken leg.
She’s a shrewd former war photojournalist, who drinks a jug of gin a day, seemingly without any ill effects: she enjoys being shockingly outspoken and she doesn’t seem to care how much she upsets everyone.
When her son conveniently disappears to London, he leaves her self-destructive teenage grandson Sam (George Ferrier), who has just been expelled from boarding school and is still suffering from his mother’s death, in charge of the household. He’s forced to care – and discovers Ruth does too – underneath.
For a film in the odd couple genre, the results are predictable: first hostility, then standoff and eventual mutual understanding and love.
Juniper is warm and by the end it is transcendentally satisfying, but, be warned, it’s also very sentimental and may very likely leave you sobbing against your will.
Juniper is the charming first feature by New Zealand writer/director Matthew J Saville, who based it on his real-life grandmother.
Juniper screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and is released on 23 September 2022 in the UK.