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Sundance 2023 Review: Bad Behaviour

A former child star goes on a retreat in an effort to better herself and connect with her daughter but old habits are hard to break.

A soothing monotone voice gives a lesson on self-enlightenment over the opening credits and the black screen fades to Lucy (Jennifer Connelly) driving in a car listening to the recording in a frazzled state and having an awkward conversation with her daughter (Alice Englert) halfway around the world on a film set; she is on her way to attend a retreat held by the guru (Ben Whishaw) behind the voice which comes with rather mixed personalities, revelations and results.  The daughter has her own storyline where she is troubled by insecurities and in many ways seems to be more emotionally troubled than her parent seeking therapy.

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Quirkiness is fine but sometimes it feels like an overused trope and that is the case with Bad Behaviour, in particular the storyline involving the daughter which feels like a whole other movie.  Yes, the two separate narratives come together and in the end the theme revolves around a mother and daughter coming together but this is a real missed opportunity.  The acting caliber of Jennifer Connelly and Ben Whishaw is so much higher than the rest of the cast that you wish that the plot had shifted to exploring the dynamic between a skeptical damaged follower and her flawed well-meaning guru.

There is a fun scene where Lucy catches Elon Bello (Whishaw) having a secret smoke and he replies, ‘I’m not a monk.  I’m enlightened.’  That line somehow sums up the retreat experience and leaves you wishing for more scenes between them.  Two outstanding shots are underexposing the sunlight during the first confession of Lucy which provides a spiritual quality to the image and the wide shot of Lucy standing on the rocks encouraging her daughter and lawyer to join her.  The sound effects are clever as they add an aspect of surrealism that amplifies the emotion of the scene.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19–29, 2023, in person and online, and for more information visit sundance.org.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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