By Katie Grimes
This review is part of double feature on the film June Falling Down. Please check out Danielle Winston’s interview with writer and director Rebecca Weaver.
June Falling Down (2016). 120 minutes. Directed by Rebecca Weaver. Starring Rebecca Weaver, Nick Hoover, and Claire Morkin.
Rebecca Weaver’s June Falling Down begins on a sunny beach. A flock of seagulls caws overhead while waves crash in the distance. The film’s main character, June, sits in the sand sketching when she is approached by two stranded travelers asking for cash. She offers them a donut instead of money, which they reject on moral grounds: “Is this bacon? . . . We’re vegetarian.” June is visibly annoyed by this ironic exchange—these people and this landscape are not what she’s used to—a personal disconnect that provides an appropriate introduction to what will be a film focused on June’s struggle to find where, and with whom, she belongs.
The plot of June Falling Down centers around June’s homecoming, her return to a small town in Wisconsin. It has been one year since her father died of cancer, and she struggles to deal both with the anniversary of her father’s death and with the fact that her best friend Harley is getting married. Returning home to Wisconsin from San Francisco forces June to address issues she has been avoiding, and confrontations that will force her to consider the direction she wants her life to go in: Will she return to California and her unfulfilling barista job? Will she stay home and rebuild her relationship with her mother? Will she take advantage of her artistic talents and pursue a creative career?
June hardly embraces these questions willingly; instead, she hides behind an abrasive personality to protect herself from the changes happening around her. In one scene, June asks Harley, “Are you really getting married?” When he confirms, she replies, “I really wish you wouldn’t.” Her brutal honesty is cringeworthy but refreshing. She’s not afraid to speak what’s on her mind and that bold, unapologetic attitude is refreshing to see in a woman on screen. June isn’t an admirable character, but she is relatable—she’s self-absorbed, resentful, and unsympathetic, which leaves her plenty of room for growth. If June’s character appears real, that’s not a surprise; the film’s director and star, Rebecca Weaver, lived through a similar story. Like June, Rebecca lost her father to cancer and grew up spending her summers in the very town the movie was shot in. June Falling Down is an extension of the director’s life, and that authenticity comes through in the script and in the acting.
Though, in Weaver’s words, the film was “homemade”—with a small budget and friends acting for free—it’s hardly unpolished. In an article published on Film Courage, Rebecca writes about the filmmaking experience:
We enlisted friends to hold the boom pole. Chris handled the camera. I directed and acted, wrangled extras, and called meal breaks. We filmed when businesses were closed and at two bars while they were open. We took over my family’s home and filmed everywhere. . . In reality, you should never try to make a feature film the way we did, with essentially two main crew people, and everyone working for free. It was exhausting and completely burned me out. . . . But I’ll also say this—I had nothing to lose. . . . No one asked me to make this movie. I just somehow knew I could.
And the film did come together, and with some strikingly beautiful elements.
One of my favorite artistic touches that Weaver incorporates into June Falling Down is a focus on nature. In transitioning from city to country life, June is forced to slow down and think about her family, her friendships, and her future. The environment, therefore, plays an important role. In one scene, June and Harley walk through a forest trail, deep in conversation. The sights and sounds of the woods dominate the screen: closeups of daisies, shots of sun streaming through the forest canopy and wind gently bending branches overhead, the sound of birds and crickets chirping in the background. The setting makes it feel like harmony has been restored, and the film’s acoustic/folk soundtrack only contributes to the peaceful ambiance, blending seamlessly with the nature-focused cinematography and small town setting.
A refreshing storyline, relatable heroine, beautiful composition, and playlist-worthy soundtrack combine to make June Falling Down a great film. But what’s truly impressive is what we don’t see on the screen—the drive, passion, and innovation that made production possible with little budget and a number of nonprofessional actors. In Weaver’s words, “This movie should not exist, but it does. And I couldn’t be prouder.”