“How do I get somebody to want me?”
Hannah (Rachel Sennott) poses that immortal teenage question to her lifelong best friend Carrie (Madeleine Grey DeFreece) halfway through Olivia Peace’s feature-length film debut, the thoughtful yet somewhat tepid teenage drama Tahara (★★★☆☆). The “somebody” in Hannah’s case is Tristan (Daniel Taveras), a fellow boy at the girls’ Hebrew school, who, it turns out, only has eyes for Carrie. Carrie completes this unrequited triangle by wanting the rather oblivious Hannah.
Carrie spends the better part of the movie trying to woo Hannah, who has a habit of making things worse. We meet the two teenage girls on the day of a funeral service for another schoolmate of theirs, who died by suicide after struggling with her sexuality (as well as getting spurned after coming on to Hannah). A few pivotal scenes in the film are embellished by the addition of animated images and graphics created by Emily Ann Hoffman that put things in stark, often surreal relief.
Written by Jess Zeidman, Tahara is a coming-of-age story notably told from a queer Black and Jewish perspective. DeGreece is thoroughly captivating as the shy, tentative Carrie, who deserves a whole lot better of a best friend — not to mention love interest — than the unflappably self-absorbed and emotionally stunted Hannah, at least in Sennott’s histrionic portrayal of the character as a wannabe mean girl.
By contrast, we see Carrie become more self-aware, socially engaged, and willing to speak out in the same short span of time, to the point you’ll leave feeling better about her than you did when first introduced. For that matter, you might feel the same about the slow-burning Tahara itself.
Tahara will be showcased in a special Reel Affirmations Drive-In Screening at Union Market, 1309 5th St. NE, on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $20. Click here for details.
Tahara screens as part of this year’s Reel Affirmations Film Festival. For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets or festival screening passes, visit https://reelaffirmations.eventive.org.
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