Written and directed by Gabrielle Rosson, when a girl with a haunted past is faced with the decision to relapse or continue working on her sobriety, she must decide if she will end up like her father or break the cycle of addiction once and for all. Starring: Kimmi Monteiro, Paul Noonan, Samantha McMahon, Paul Kandarian, Jamieson Allen Horton, Tamora Israel, Brina, Philip Santangelo, Jamilyn Rothwell, Sam Kossow, Mark Lauzon and Jayde Kozar.
A student film made to tackle the topic of generational addiction to break stigmas and raise awareness about addiction and recovery. Addiction comes in many forms but it affects a significant number of people but rarely does film or television tackle it in everyday forms, choosing the rich, glamorous or famous instead. Get Up Eight brings through the topic in a way that’s an everyday struggle, it isn’t all dramatic outbursts and parties, it’s just a few normal people who can’t quite handle their reality without a little help. The film starts out with two separate stories, one woman searching for a job to get her life back on track and one man losing his battle with alcohol and drug dependency but gradually reveals how their lives are interwoven.
The choice to interlay their stories was an ambitious one for a student project, only being made more difficult by its non-linear timeline which is handled well but is a little rocky in the beginning. Its intentions and story progression are fairly unclear early on, the two stories feel too separate and it takes a while before their connection becomes clear, it works once it has but it would have been even better to establish that earlier on. With just over twenty minutes to play with there was a possibility of tweaking it to provide some larger context to its story, there is definitely an interesting plot at play with something to say but the more emotional aspects feel too brief and could have stolen more of the runtime. For instance, it would have been beneficial to bring the third generational aspect of the story in deeper and explore it further, as that feels like one of the strongest elements of the writing. However it is unusual that the film tackles how addiction affects the next generation, and can make them more susceptible to it themselves, the way that Rosson put particular effort into reflecting the choices of father and daughter to show that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree was interesting and an admirable attempt for a rookie filmmaker.
Rosson’s direction has a really nice variety of shots, it’s not stuck to one style it plays with a mix of close and wide shots that still give it an overall very everyday, humble feel to it which works well. There are perhaps a few choices that could have been tidied up slightly but for the most part it has a nice amount of movement and doesn’t feel static. Although its style doesn’t entirely pull out more of the emotion the story has to offer, it nicely reflects the addiction elements of the story but the attempts to rebuild a family and pushing forward into a healthier place don’t always feel supported, there’s a depth that isn’t taken advantage of. There is a surprising edge of sweetness to it through its message of resilience, balancing out the gloomier aspects rather than doubling down on the darkness.
The performances are a slightly mixed bag, Monteiro’s Joy feels more convincing than Noonan’s David, the latter doesn’t quite capture drunkenness very well and feels like he needed to loosen up more in the role to give a better representation of the downward spiral his character was on. Monteiro can be a little wooden at various moments but her overall performance is solid, she’s sympathetic and portrays that attempt to right her previous issues well and keeps that troubled edge present. The touching moment shared between Joy and her daughter is well captured, there’s not much need for words as it speaks for itself and it certainly helps that the actress playing her daughter (Kozar) has a strong resemblance to Monteiro.
Get Up Eight gave itself a heavy task of exploring addiction through generations within 22-minutes, it’s a sincerely complicated topic but the attempts to overlay past and present and reflect one within the other was a smart way to present the story. It has its weaknesses the same as any student film does, areas that can be improved with experience but there are no overriding flaws, it’s a solid story that simply could have tweaked its focus to really pump up the emotion and depth to its melancholy story. It’s a good effort for a first film, especially give the tough topic Rosson chose to tackle and it’s easy to see how it started a foundation for her style that improved in her second film.