Chris Lowell’s inaugural directorial effort opens with Ernest Hemingway’s quote about how “all generations are lost by something.” Judging by the largely uninspired film that follows, the “something” in question could be stale reunion movies.
Like Return of the Secaucus 7 and The Big Chill before it, Beside Still Waters catches up with a group of friends who’ve come back together after many years apart. Unlike those movies, the friends in question share no revolutionary past, unless it involved liberating kegs of beer from the package store. Their sole touchstone: the fact they used to hang out at Daniel’s (Ryan Eggold) parents’ lake house. The parents recently died, and none of them attended the funeral, though all are perfectly happy to come to the wake.
As in the aforementioned Big Chill, there’s the TV star (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ’s Brett Dalton), a happy couple, and an unhappy one (curiously, in the case of both movies it’s the woman who cheats). In sticking with seven friends and one outsider/interloper (Daniel’s ex-girlfriend’s fiancé), Lowell hews so close to the reunion-film formula he ends up stifling anything new that may otherwise have resulted.
Not that there’s much room for exposition, mind you. Clocking in at a spare 75 minutes, Beside Still Waters barely has time to sketch hurried outlines of its principal characters, a task made even harder by several musical montages free of either dialogue or plot.
There’s a hint of introspection at the end — maybe self-awareness, perhaps just an absence of selfishness — but by this time we’re just tired of all the millennial malaise. Turns out not all still waters run that deep.