The tone is set in the films opening scene, the camera circling the group, with Peggy (Najarra Townsend) reading horoscopes from the newspaper of each person on the trip. Some of the gang believes in that sort of stuff and others see it as silly gibberish, but one thing is for sure, something is in the cosmos. Peggy is the new face to the bunch, dating the naive Wyatt (Shane Simmons), along with married couple Golda (Alana Arenas) and Jack (Jack C. Newell), and the often bickering Isabelle (Roxane Mequida) and Richard (Kevin Wehby) wrapping up the couples. As the weekend progresses, relationships will begin to crack and others will survive the shifting patterns of one another's moods. Mercury in Retrograde is as much about varying differences of human emotions, as it is about the complexities of love.
There's plenty of praise to pass around to the entire cast of Mercury in Retrograde. The major highlights are from the trio of ladies: Najarra Townsend, Alana Arenas, and Roxane Mequida. Townsend is a beaming light of energetic emotions. Her performance as Peggy is poignant, honest, and layered, while the work by Arenas is beautifully subtle to perfection. As the relationship between Golda and Peggy grows closer, Mequida's performance shines in her own corner. She carries a fierce attitude as Isabelle, fighting fears with anger. The performances from the men are equally solid, especially Newell's gentle, laid back cool guy, where all three characters show a masculine, intellectual, and comedic side.
Later, the two groups go their separate ways. The women enjoy drinks in town and become more in tune with their feelings on life. Meanwhile, the guys exhale their energy with a friendly game of Frisbee golf and later bond over a bottle of whiskey to discuss the noir novel- The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammet. With every conversation, we peel the onion of each character, and deep philosophical thought's are debated. It's during these moments that we see the textured work of Michael Glover Smith. The Cool Apocalypse director does a spectacular job of working with his cinematographer Jason Chiu, as they push the camera in on each characters face and use lighting to set the moods. The writing makes it clear that Glover Smith is a fan of Richard Linklater films, as I was reminded of dialogue-heavy films such as The Big Chill, Sideways, or Before Sunset, but the Chicago native is creating his own path to genius, drawing relatable characters, and images like a seasoned painter.
Mercury in Retrograde starts out as relaxing getaway for six friends and becomes a weekend they will never forget. I myself was in awe with how smart, quietly funny, and genuine this film is. The entire cast absorbs Michael Glover Smith's intelligent script, while the performance from Najarra Townsend is one of the best lead performances in an independent film this year. I can see us catching back up with these characters in the future, leading different lives filled with marriage, kids, or death. Whatever the signs are, Mercury in Retrograde is fantastic achievement.
Mercury in Retrograde will be playing at the 4th Annual Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival 2PM this Thursday at Oakton Community College. For more information check it out HERE.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: MERCURY IN RETROGRADE
STARRING: NAJARRA TOWNSEND; ROXANE MESQUIDA; KEVIN WEHBY; ALANA ARENAS
DIRECTED BY: MICHAEL GLOVER SMITH
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The stars are aligned in Michael Glover Smith's Mercury in Retrograde. In the writer/director's sophomore installment, his work is bursting with confidence and boasting a spectacular cast to carry it out. Three couples have gathered at a summer home in Michigan, where laughs will be had and tears will be shed, as conversations go deeper, past regrets are conjured up, and dreams begin to reveal themselves. With an excellent collection of actors, in-depth dialogue, and breathtaking direction, Mercury in Retrograde left me full of emotions and excited to see what Michael Glover Smith does next.