In JJ Winlove’s debut feature, June Again, a go-getting woman is gone. In her place is an empty shell.
June Wilton (Noni Hazlehurst) has vascular dementia. She’s being well looked after in an appropriate facility, where the staff is kind and understanding. Her condition means she has visions of the past as if they were the present. Then, suddenly, a miracle occurs. June is once again lucid. She thinks only two or three months have gone by, but in fact five years have intervened. Still, the doctor (Wayne Blair) warns her that the regression to full mental health is only temporary and June would be wise to remain in the home. Not surprisingly (otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie), she chooses to take matters into her own hands and absconds.
First, she visits her old home and finds that the house has been sold from under her. After “borrowing” some clothes, she meets her daughter Ginny (Claudia Karvan), who is ecstatic to have her mother back. But they share a love/hate relationship. Ginny’s life hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing since she lost her mother to dementia. She fell out with her brother Devon (Stephen Curry) because of a bad investment her partner made.
For his part, Devon divorced his wife – who Ginny liked – and has taken up with another woman. His promising career as an architect never took off and he’s working in a menial job. Before she took ill, June ran a quality handmade wallpaper factory, but she is horrified to find that the place has gone downhill and down market. In the time she has, June is intent on “fixing” her family’s problems.
June Again is poignant and funny. It is the third film about dementia I’ve seen in the past few weeks, the others being The Father and Supernova. Each is special in its own way. This is definitely the most humorous, but still can’t mask the hideous nature of the disease.
All the key players are excellent, with Hazlehurst leading the way. She is feisty and vulnerable. Most importantly, credible. Karvan is sympathetic, while Curry plays tortured and cynical. The subject is a vital one to speak about in and on all platforms. Many will undoubtedly appreciate the portrayal of Ginny’s two children as addicted to their screens at the expense of human interaction.
June Again has many feel-good elements to it, which makes it accessible. A few plot points are more transparent than others, but most of the time Winlove has chosen the right path.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.