Coming to theaters this week from director/writer Ally Walker and Monterey Media is family, secrets and sports with “Sex, Death and Bowling.”
Eli McAllister (Joshua Rush) is an 11-year-old boy whose life is turning upside down. His father Rick (Bailey Chase) is seriously ill, his mother Glenn (Selma Blair) is emotionally absent and Grandfather Dick (Daniel Kelly) is avoiding everything.
Coming home after a long absence, Sean (Adrian Grenier) comes home to spend time with his brother. The memories come flooding back of their growing up together yet there is a secret that is haunting Sean.
Eli is actually thrilled to see his Uncle Sean. The town has a tournament, The Fiesta Cup, and with his father ill, Eli needs someone else. Knowing that things are rocky between Sean and his grandfather, it also becomes an opportunity to bring the family together and do one last thing for his father.
Healing and forgiveness can start even while wearing bowling shoes!
Grenier as Sean is a young man who has made a success of his life. Getting away from small town living and the secrets, he has relocated to Europe. Coming back to visit his ill brother, the character of Sean is also trying to fix his relationship at home long distance. There is so much emotion here for Grenier yet he doesn’t rob anything from each story he must address. From his love life, to memories past, the relationship with his brother, father and even Eli – Grenier portrays his character so deeply.
Rush as Eli is amazing as a young man dealing with so much for his age. Wanting to make his father proud and trying to keep life normal for his mother. This young man is smart and totally endearing as Eli. It constantly amazed me that he had things more together than the adults who should have been his support system. Rush gives a performance that stands out as one I will remember for a long time.
Blair as Glenn is a woman falling apart and falling away from her son. Of course this is understandable but seeing the effect on son Eli is hard. Blair gives this character such believability and sadness, well done performance. Chase as Rick is a husband and father who tries to reconnect with is brother and father while watching his wife sadness. Kelly as father/grandfather Dick is a bit like Eli in that there are secrets and unresolved issues that have followed him for years.
Other cast include: Melora Walters as Evie, Drea de Matteo as Ana, Mary Lynn Rajskub as Kim, Drew Powell as Tim, Richard Riehle as Father Joe, Erica Gimpel as Shanti and Joseph Aviel as John.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Sex, Death and Bowling” four tubs of popcorn out of five. This is such a lovely story about the history of a family that isn’t all roses. When Sean returns, it is as if no one can move forward until the family issues are spoken about openly. I’m going to take a wild guess in saying that there are many who can relate to the duality of loving a family member and wanting to scream at them simultaneously.
The film is shot extremely well not relying on over played with a loud sentimental soundtrack but instead letting the viewer take each event moment by moment. The characters are so well done that the twists and turns will get an honest reaction from viewers. That’s so important when telling a story filled with such intensity.
There is also humor here that I love, it’s a little twisted in places but it reminds me of my own family which, again, makes the entire film relatable.
Director/writer and actress Ally Walker isn’t new to the emotion game. To her credit Walker has given television performances on such shows as Longmire, Colony, The Protector and the most amazing show Sons of Anarchy. As Agent June Stahl she gave me more than one occasion to scream at the screen.
The script is well done and Walker obviously knew exactly what she wanted to put on screen and she does it beautifully. I dare anyone who sees this film not to laugh, get a little choked up and even sniffle a time or two.
In the end — sometimes coming home means going back!