‘UNDONE’ (AMAZON)

Most people have a family mystery, and for some, it’s one that is very close to home and defines so much of your life. That’s the case for Alma (Rosa Salazar), who struggles with the mysterious death of her father when she was a kid. It’s created a permanent sense of unease for her, causing her to struggle with relationships, particularly with her remaining family — her mom, Camila (Constance Marie) and her sister, Becca (Angelique Cabral).

A car accident changes the situation and Alma finds herself grappling with the past in a more prescient way by not only communicating with a manifestation of her dead father (Bob Odenkirk) but also finding her emotional displacement from reality has manifested itself as a physical circumstance. Time means nothing, fading in and out, as place does also, and Alma ends up trapped within her own obsessions and regrets in the form of an existential time travel mystery that may or may not be solvable.

Undone” is realized through rotoscoped animation that adds just the right amount of unreality to the fluid situation the character of Alma finds herself in, but it would be nothing without strong characters and actors capable of bringing them to life. It might be on the surface a mind-bending slice of mystical science fiction, but underneath sits an insightful family drama that asks numerous questions about personal narratives and how we build them, as well as about how mental illness is perceived by others, as well as the sufferer. This is a quiet little series that sneaks up on you with its perceptive insights on human emotions and interaction, and with its big questions, but the real achievement is the genial and genuinely amusing tone that rides through it and the very human level that it manages to stay on even as it bends your mind.

THANK YOU FOR COMING‘ (AMAZON)

I had only known documentary director Sara Lamm from her excellent film, “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox,” in which she explores the history of the cleaning products, but this warm and fascinating 2017 film takes follows a more personal journey. Lamm’s mother died when she was a kid, and her father only recently revealed to her that she was conceived through sperm donation. That gets Lamm thinking, as anyone would, wondering not only the story of her mother’s experience but also the obvious question — who was her father?

Lamm takes the audience on the journey to answer that question, but she doesn’t treat it as a one-dimensional query that only requires a simple answer. There are considerations and Lamm is intent on taking those into account in her journey. The first is coming to understand her relationship with her father, coming to terms with the fact he is not her biological parent and examining what her place in his life is, what he requires of a daughter who is not biologically his. It also means Lamm has to ask herself the same question about finding her biological father. What does she want?

Along the way to the answers to all this, we find out more about Lamm’s mother through visits with Lamm’s Southern family and friends. We also get to spend time with her friend, Jennifer, who is in a similar situation and a journey into her life lays out a parallel story that helps preface Lamm’s experience and map out practical methods in which to go through the same thing.

There’s no point in hiding the fact that this is a feel-good journey, with Lamm’s sense of humor as she directly addresses emotional matters guiding things along. It’s a personal story, but in this age of DNA testing, one that speaks to a lot of people as they grapple with the revelations of these tests, and Lamm provides clarity and compassion on the matter.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle.

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