Featured image: Stephen Curry, Noni Hazelhurst and Claudia Karvan in June Again. (Courtesy of Route 504 PR.)
Written and directed by JJ Winlove. Starring Noni Hazelhurst, Stephen Curry, Claudia Karvan. Runtime 1h 39 min. Released January 7, 2022 (in U.S. and Canada; originally released in Australia on May 6, 2021).
June Again is about its titular, loving matriarch, June (Noni Hazelhurst). She’s been living in assisted living for the past five years, suffering from a form of dementia. One morning, she experiences a miraculous bout of lucidity, where her dementia has lifted. The nursing home try to convince her to stay (“It’s Fun Friday!” advertises one of them). Instead, June flees, taking the opportunity to set things in order with her family and reminisce about a lost love.
Firstly, Hazelhurst is an absolute force as June. She hooks us from the beginning; perfectly displaying the confusion of someone with dementia as a shell of her former self; and when she is, quite literally June Again, we can see the light that was once there. She’s cheeky and daring; and it takes a strong actor to convincingly play those two distinct contrasts of lucidity and dementia. It’s like two layered characters she can switch between, and when she mixes both aspects – as we know the stakes that her lucidity can end absolutely whenever – it is fascinating and heartbreaking.
When June’s lucid, she finds her family – son Devon (Stephen Curry) and daughter Ginny (Claudia Karvan). She tries to fix everything once there, and while it seems consistent with her character, some of the things she does are a bit, audacious. Like helping Devon lose his job when she learns he now works at a copy shop instead of being an architect. Or when she let’s a dumpster roll into a car of the new boss of her beloved wallpaper company because she believes he’s mismanaging it. These moments are funny even if they seem to toe that line. To this, Ginny says, “Can’t you act like a normal mother for five minutes? I’ve really f^$king missed you.”
Writer and director JJ Winlove’s premise is sincerely good, a realistic one showing that even a mother is “gone” mentally for five years, she’s going to come back and be their mother as if nothing has changed (though it has). It doesn’t feel like it’s been five years for her, and it’s fascinating watching her get back into the swing of things. It’s a realistic premise because it also features those somewhat toxic habits and family dysfunction every family has; where she tries to micromanage and fix her children’s relationships. Everything comes from a place of love, even if some things seem a bit… extreme.
I must admit, though, the disappointing aspect is that she is criticizing instead of living. I wanted more heart out of the film consistently as that family drama of June learning she can’t fix everything takes up a lot of the room, as Ginny is saying the whole film that they should merely enjoy each other’s company because they don’t know how long this lucidity will last.
I think the film is such a neat premise just for having that quality time together. There’s so many different directions this film could have gone, and it kind-of chooses the believability and story arc of a family’s dynamics reverting to what they were, only with distinct changes because of time – like Devon being the top of one class in architecture school and being married; to being divorced and working in a printer shop.
This isn’t all to say that the film’s heart is misplaced. The heart of the film lies solely in the part of the film discussing a lost dresser, and that’s where we feel June Again because those moments in the film – largely contained to the third act – is when June seems to be at her happiest. The other happiness in the film is sprinkles of flashbacks throughout the film. I kind-of desired that passion from the characters throughout, but there’s still powerful drama on top of that heart.