REVIEW: The Group (2022)

dir. William Higo

When Kara (Evangelina Burton) returns to her substance use support group she finds herself – along with the other members – in the midst of a hostage situation, a gunman forcing painful truths to be revealed. 

There’s an admirable lived-in quality to William Higo’s feature debut, from the mundanity of the community centre setting to the rich backstories of each character. Likewise the script has a spiky quality, with relationships picked up and developed, whilst Burton is compelling in the lead role, mixing sympathy with a cynicism that gives weight to her journey. Indeed the entire ensemble is strong, the film at its most engaging in whispered conversations and private moments, well captured by cinematographer Andrew Litt.

For the most part however things play out like a bottle episode of a TV drama, something that is both its biggest strength and weakness. The limited setting feeds into a weaker second half, with the film becoming quite static once Dylan Baldwin’s gunman takes charge, and never overcomes a stagey quality. Single locations can add tension to a film but also restrict their impact, and sadly in this The Group can’t quite live up to a captivating first act.

© Russell Bailey

⭐️⭐️

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