by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 4, 2013
A scene from CONCUSSION
A scene from CONCUSSION  

Abby (Robin Weigert) is a middle-aged housewife who's settled into a routine of childrearing and housekeeping. There's a twist in that she's married to another woman -- but in this day and age of increasing marriage equality, is that really so outrageous?

It's not at all, of course, and even if it were Abby would still have to face the same daily pressures and repetitious tasks. When she catches a ball in the face, something in Abby switches over, and she decides she's had enough of the domestic scene. She's going to spark up her life with a return to the work force.

Still having two kids at home as well as a hard-working attorney, Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) for a wife means that a full-time job is out of the question, but in partnership with a contractor named Justin (Johnathan Tchaikovsky) Abby is able to put her skills as an interior decorator to use, renovating a run-down apartment with an eye to selling it off once it's done.

But an impulsive encounter with a hooker brings whole new possibilities into view, and before long Abby is wading into an unexpected new career path -- that of sex worker (with a touch of sex therapist thrown in). Is Abby finding herself? Or did that beanball do more damage than she initially suspected?

It's easy to sympathize with Abby, and easy to chalk up her adventurous turn of career more to the suffocating strictures of conventionality than to the concussion of the movie's title. What little time we spend with Abby in the company of other moms is fraught with gossip and complaints of the most trivial sort, so that the very thought of this comprising the whole of one's life is enough to bring on thoughts of bottles of vodka, if not broken bottle-necks drawn across wrists.

But things grow more complicated when one of Abby's clients turns out to be from her ordinary domestic life, a neighborhood mom named Sam (Maggie Siff). When Sam becomes a regular, it launches Abby out of sex work for fun and profit, and into the emotional cauldron of an affair.

Writer-director Stacie Passon has distilled the best parts of films like "The Kids Are All Right" while refusing to settle for mainstream compromises. Weigert -- you might know her work from the HBO series "Deadwood," where she played a tough-as-nails Calamity Jane -- turns in a vibrant and nuanced performance here that's smart, sexy, and full of impolitic (but piercing) truths.

"Concussion" doesn't preach, condescend or, pardon the pun, hit you over the head. It offers entree to a world of passion, questions, self-discovery, and, ultimately, satisfaction.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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