This winter, you’re allowed to start believing in June Again.
Set in Australia, June Again tells the story of June Wilton, an elderly woman who has been suffering from dementia for the past five years. Although she has been lost within herself over that time, an astonishing bout of lucidity suddenly awakens her as if no time has passed. As she returns home, June is angered to discover that much has changed within her family. Immediately, June sets to work on fixing the lives of her children and the family business. However, the experience will also awaken a past romance which June had long kept from her family as well.
Written and directed by JJ Winlove, June Again is a heartwarming surprise for the cold month of January. Mixing multiple styles and story threads, Winlove manages to create something that feels new. Although the film’s tone shifts drastically throughout, June somehow comes together in a way that charms the viewer by its end. This is a film that wants us to mourn June’s condition, be frustrated by her and fall in love with her at the same time and yet, the script still works.
Of course, much of the credit to the film’s success belongs to some strong work by Noni Hazlehurst as the grumpy but lovable June. With fire and fury, Hazlehurst demonstrates the stranglehold that June upon her family as its matriarch. However, there is also an innocence about her character that makes us empathize with her. As Winlove’s script moves from family trauma into revisiting past, Hazlehurst owns every scene with authority. Even so, her best work may come in her quieter moments when she’s struggling to hold on to her lucidity. With a single glance, Hazlehurst demonstrates the complex inner struggle that Jane is experiencing as her worlds begin to blur together.
Though she says nothing, she communicates much.
Somewhat impressively, Winslow never loses sight of the emotional strain that takes place on the family when one of their loved ones is struggling with dementia. As June arrives home again and attempts to put her life into context, the mixture of emotions that felt by her family are palpable. On the one hand, there is great joy and relief to see their sick mother stepping back into her life. In addition though, all of the tensions that once existed between them also come flooding back as well. For example, siblings Ginny and Kyle both have moments where they’re relieved to see her well but also frustrated by her overbearing and interfering nature.
They have a deep love for their mother but there is also years of hurt to process as well.
In this way, Winlove’s film explores the complex relationship between the past and present. In this family, everyone is attempting to deal with history. On the one hand, June’s children are attempting to navigate their own interpersonal struggles. From a traumatic car accident to the pain of financial losses, their family has been torn apart over the last few years. As June re-emerges, her attempt to control the lives causes further friction by reminding them all just how far their family has fallen. On the other hand, June has also experienced a deep personal loss in the form of her past lover. Having been involved in a whirlwind romance that changed her life many years ago, June also feels trapped by her past, albeit in a different manner. Her lost love remains a gap in her soul and she yearns to see him one more time.
As these two stories converge though, Winslow uses them to provide hope and healing to his characters. By forcing them together, Winlove allows June, Ginny and Devon to begin to see past their pain and offer the support to each another. Despite their history, there is a grace that manages to break through that highlights their importance and brings some much-needed healing to their family.
With a strange mix of sadness and fun, June Again is an unexpected joy. Backed by a perfect performance by Hazlehurst, Winlove manages to craft a story that blends humour and heart, without ever negating the impact of dementia on the family. Though the film may fly under the radar of most, look for it. There is a warmth to this June that is infectious to even the coldest of hearts.
June Again is available on demand on Friday, January 7th, 2021.