Concussion (2013) ☆☆☆(3/4) : Deviation with coffee, talk, and sex

concussion01 It has been a good life for her and her family, but now she finds herself getting suffocated by her daily life. As she feels her discontent growing inside her day by day, she decides to try something different, and she feels a little better with her secret deviation, even though it can possibly destabilize her family life if she is not careful.

Deviation behind the ennui of middle-class daily life is not exactly a fresh subject(remember “Desperate Housewives”?), but “Concussion” handles its subject with dry humor and thoughtful sensitivity, and the result is an intimate character drama which sometimes surprises not only us but also its heroine while she is reaching for something she cannot explain well even to herself. Like many people dissatisfied with their lives, she wants more from her life, but what she really wants from her deviation?

When we meet Abby(Robin Weigert) in the beginning, she is going through her usual daily routine at a local gym with her friends/neighbors as an average suburban housewife, and then we see a noticeable aspect of her family. She and her spouse Kate(Julie Fain Lawrence) have been living together as a lesbian couple for many years, and they also have two loving children, Mayer(Maren Shapero) and Jake(Micah Shapero).

They are certainly not a conventional family on the surface, but their family life is not so different from any other ‘normal’ family life. Kate, a lawyer specializing in divorce case, is usually busy with her work, and it is always Abby’s job to take care of domestic matters including taking their kids back from the school. While she spends some time with other moms in her neighbourhood, Abby also works as an interior designer; she and her business partner Justin(Johnathan Tchaikovsky) buy cheap apartments in New York and then sell them at higher price after renovating them during her free time.

concussion02 Things are going well for everyone, but Abby is not very happy with her life, and that feeling of hers becomes louder especially after an unfortunate accident. During the afternoon playtime with her kids, she happens to be hit hard by her son’s baseball when he throws it at her. She looks all right after getting emergency treatment at the hospital, but she seems to feel the ennui of her domestic life more than ever. She tries to have a sex with Kate during one night, but Kate is too tired due to her work, and Abby naturally feels more dissatisfaction along with frustration. She tries to ventilate that feeling through exercise later, but she still feels discontented and suffocated, while not knowing what to do about that.

And then she somehow gets an idea. She meets a prostitute through advertisement, but that prostitute does not fulfill her need at all while giving her a pretty lousy experience. When she confides her experience to Justin, he introduces Abby to the other prostitute through his girlfriend who happens to be running a call girl service, and Abby is satisfied with, uh, a better service.

After that, she goes further. She meets Justin’s girlfriend, and now she begins to work as a call girl named “Eleanor”. While pretending to Kate and others that she goes outside for her work, she meets her female clients at a cafe near to one of her apartments currently going through renovation. After some talk, her clients will come to that apartment, where Abby is ready to give whatever they want in exchange for their money.

While this situation probably reminds you of Luis Buñuel’s darkly amusing film “Belle de Jour”(1967), “Concussion” takes a more somber and realistic route as Abby meeting various clients with each own need and desire, and it is interesting to watch how she interacts with them respectively. She deals with younger girls at first, and, as a woman with more experience, she becomes a sort of counselor to one shy, chubby college girl who has never experienced intimate sexual experience before. Serving this young girl as much as paid, Abby also gives her some advices on losing weight and improving her self-image, and they become a little friendlier to each other as they spend more time together.

concussion03 And then we get a dryly humorous scene between Abby and a client who is around her age. When that client, played by Laila Robins with sharp, no-nonsense attitude, comes into the apartment, she instantly senses that Abby is attempting to take the control of their situation, and she is not so pleased about that. She quickly decides to quit their meeting, but Abby wisely handles the situation, and her client changes her mind again.

The movie has several explicit sex scenes, but they are handled with care and some humor, and they function well as a part of the story while looking both objective and sensitive. It is strictly business between Abby and her clients, but they try together to get what they respectively want under mutual agreement, and the sense of intimacy is palpable even when the camera is mostly focusing on the faces of Abby and her client at one point.

While all these things and others are happening behind her back, Abby goes through her daily routines as usual, and the director/writer Stacy Passion imbues her movie with the realistic mood of mundane daily life. There are a number of small good moments here and there in the film, and one of them comes from Kate, who has probably been sensing the increasing gap between her and Abby. It is initially a trivial conversation on what their daughter will say during the upcoming school presentation, but then both of them see how much their relationship has been strained when Kate finally expresses her own frustration to Abby through a revealing line(“I just want you to like something”).

Although “Concussion” has a number of flaws including its weak third act, Stacie Passion shows here considerable talent as a competent director who can ably handle story and characters while pulling good performances from her performers. While the other performers including Julie Fain Lawrence, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Laila Robins, and Maggie Siff(she plays one of Abby’s neighbours who later comes to her as Eleanor’s new client) deserve to be praised for their solid performances, it must be said that Robin Weigert is simply fabulous as the center of the film, and she is always engaging to watch even when she does not seem to reveal much about what is going on inside her character. I must confess that I am not that familiar with this talented actress who has been steadily working for more than 10 years, but I think we can expect to see a lot more from her later.

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