Stacie Passon’s debut film Concussion (2013) explores the modern ennui suffered by liberal cookie-cutter wives – with a twist that the female in question is a lesbian with her own partner and children. Beginning with a slightly satirical opening featuring a gaggle of middle-aged Stepford Wives doing a spinning class (as David Bowie’s Oh! You Pretty Things plays over the opening credits), we enter a world of free-thinking, good-looking women, bemoaning their non-existent flabby thighs and ageing skin. One such woman is property developer and interior decorator Abby (Robin Weigert), who’s no longer satisfied with her 2:4 lifestyle.
The uniform houses and picket fences of modern suburbia simply aren’t enough any more, especially when accompanied by endless Parent-Teacher Association meetings and school plays. In a flash of mindlessness, Abby – tired of the social charade – shows her true colours, remarking to another mother that she used to dream of putting her son in the microwave – adding she didn’t know whether she wanted to “kill him, fuck him, or eat him.” This darkness of tone pervades Concussion’s drama, where astringent humour is used to provide some semblance of light relief to the emotionally vacant atmosphere. Seeking some additional spice in her life, Abby meets up with a female prostitute on the recommendation of her business partner Justin (Jonathan Tchaikovsky).
From here, Abby decides to set up business for herself using her recent New York studio apartment as HQ, helped out by a law-student known only as ‘The Girl’. Abby’s life spirals out of control as she experiences manifold hollow encounters with numerous women, ranging from virginal freshmen through to more mature clients. Inevitably, this takes its toll on her relationship with her partner and kids, as well as her own sanity. We pity Abby’s situation, but only so far – never fully empathising with her, despite the fact that we really should. Weigert gives balance to Concussion’s central character, managing to be at once dominating and passive to her situations – but why exactly? Because Abby is unable to give a damn about anything, cocooned in a self-imposed fog of depression, she attempts a cure via one orgasm after another.
David Kruta’s cold-eyed cinematography does help to enhance this emotional numbness of the film, beautifully capturing the chill white neutral interiors of the studio apartment. Yet, by the second act, the drama becomes more than a little wearisome. Unlike the legs of the exercise-mad mothers that litter Passon’s film, there is far too much fat to chew upon here. The initially steamy sex scenes swiftly goes off the boil due to the lack of ample drama, leaving only a miserable portrait of a world where love is as alien as vivid colour to this movie. As an audience, you’re infected with the languor Abby suffers, realising the as pretty as Concussion looks and with such an interesting premise behind it, beneath the surface there is precious little to really sink your teeth into.
This review was first published on 15 February 2013 as part of our Berlin Film Festival coverage.