Elevate Difference

The Things We Carry

The Things We Carry tells the story of two sisters coping with the death of their drug-addicted mother Sunny (Alexis Rhee). After leaving her mother and sister Eve (Catherine Kresge) to travel the globe, Emmie (Alyssa Lobit) returns home upon news of her mother’s death. The sisters are forced to confront both Sunny’s drug-addicted friends and each other while searching for a mysterious package.

The film is loosely based on the real-life experiences of sisters Athena and Alyssa Lobit; Athena produced the film, while Alyssa wrote the script and stars as Emmie. As Eve and Emmie, Kresge and Lobit execute their roles with a muted intensity that speaks to the internal struggles of their characters. Lobit’s nuanced turn as the rebellious Emmie presents a woman whose antagonistic exterior hides a sensitive interior. The rest of the cast's performances are largely forgettable, as the other characters are merely meant to serve as catalysts to Emmie and Eve’s introspection and confrontation.

The Things We Carry alternates between scenes from Emmie’s memory and the sisters' present-day reunion, illustrating how they reached the point of estrangement. These vignettes are artfully articulated, as visual cues from the present (such as an image of a jacket or a yellow cab) serve as links to Emmie’s past. Flashback sequences on film tend to come off as confusing or campy, so it’s a testament to Ian McCrudden’s direction and Alyssa Lobit’s writing that the flashbacks are so effective at enhancing the storytelling and building narrative tension.

The film is saturated in yellows and browns, and features unnaturally bright lighting that emphasizes Emmie's discomfort in returning to her hometown. These blown-out images are placed in counterpoint to the beautiful violin and bass compositions of Timo Chen, whose score ebbs and flows, entering moments of reflection and heightened emotion and serving as an aural bridge between remembered past and lived present.

What is perhaps most impressive about the film is its complete lack of didacticism. Emmie may feel morally superior to her mother, but the film does not necessarily agree. The Things We Carry does not make moral judgments about any of the characters' actions; though the film centers on the detrimental effects of Sunny’s drug use, she is not presented as merely a drug addict—she is also a mother, a wife, and a friend. Ultimately the film is not without its flaws, but The Things We Carry survives on its earnestness and engrossing narrative structure.

Written by: Joanna Chlebus, August 19th 2010