There are plenty of familiar notes to Shana Feste’s Boundaries and they are all handily welcomed as an antidote to less soothing things on our movie screens. Or you know, the real world. This is a movie replenish yourself with, perhaps soak up a little vitamin D from its sunny positivity, enjoy the breeze. Even the cliched can be a comfort by delivering only what you demand of it.
Vera Farmiga stars as Laura, a single mother whose coping mechanisms include dating jerks and taking in one too many stray animals. When her estranged father Jack (played to maximum cheshire cat slyness by Christopher Plummer) is kicked out of his elderly living community, Laura is roped into taking him cross-country in his old car to live with her sister. But old age has not softened Jack’s misbehavior in the slightest, for he has also brought along a trunk full of pot to sell off to the eccentric host of characters they visit along the way.
In the tradition of Little Miss Sunshine and Grandma, the episodic structure of this road trip hits all of the quirky stops in rule book, right down to Laura’s troubled and profanely precocious son Henry, played by A Monster Calls’ Lewis MacDougall. There’s pot jokes and old man jokes galore, with Jack the center of the film’s most expected beats. Everything turns out okay in the end right down to the pop standard that christens its conclusion.
Its conflict resolution comes too easy, following its projected path to the very end without steering off course. The film mostly chickens out on its more prickly, biting aspects, often dulling its sharp edges with cozy sentiment. And that’s just fine. Creativity and ambition aren’t the name of the game here, it’s casualness and comfort. To that regard, the film succeeds admirably even as you wish it would have some more innovation or guts.
Boundaries functions best as a vehicle for the underappreciated comedic gifts of Vera Farmiga. While the film often reduces Laura’s screw ups down to sketch comedy oddness, like the plentiful strays she takes in or her affability to her son’s inappropriateness, Farmiga complicates her and stirs up an engaging humanity. The difficulty in making these tropes palatable is a believable assemblage of performers, and Farmiga’s often ignorance naturalist gifts are on full display here.
While Boundaries feels overly familiar, it is of a dying breed of mild, sugary independent cinema that gives us space to relax into the easy chair of its disposition. Its brisk and inoffensive, valuable precisely for its respite – but expect little more.