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Cinetopia Film Festival: Ann-Arbor based event returns after a 5-year hiatus with ‘For When You Get Lost’

 

The Cinetopia Film Festival, which debuted in 2012, is making a comeback. The 10-day event, with screenings spread out between both The Michigan and State Theater in beautiful downtown Ann Arbor, is back on the scene for the first time since 2019, the last normal year before the pandemic altered everything in the world, especially the state of moviegoing and art house cinemas/festivals in general. 


In 2024, the lineup might not be as robust or star driven as in years past (one can remember in 2018, when the festival opened with the A24 stunner “Eighth Grade” and writer-director Bo Burnham was on hand to introduce the film). But that’s all by design as Cinetopia works on training new staff as well as building up and retraining audiences to get back in the habit of going to movies. The festival programmers were enthusiastic during the opening night party, championing the return of the event and thanking loyal patrons, who were beaming at the thought of finally being back after such a long break. Russ Collins, the executive director of Marquee Arts (the new brand for the now defunct Michigan Theater Foundation) proclaimed during his opening night speech: “We’re here to stay.” 


Throughout the festival, starting with this article, I will be providing dispatches for the films I see during the run of the event (mostly confined to the films during the first Thursday-Sunday stretch). So stay tuned to TheOnlyCritic.com for ongoing coverage as it becomes available. 

 

FOR WHEN YOU GET LOST 

The first movie of the fest and kicking things off after 5 years on the bench was Michelle Steffes’ “For When You Get Lost,” a coming-of-age, road-trip sister comedy about grief and loss. It stars Jennifer Sorenson (who also wrote the film based on her own experiences) as June Stevenson who tries rallying her distant siblings Cami (played by Elizabeth Alderfer) and half sister Mikey (Aja Bair) to visit their dying father (Mark L. Taylor) of whom they have a rather contentious relationship with. 


“For When You Get Lost” certainly has its heart in the right place regarding the psychological dysfunction that comes when a loved one is dying, but it’s a stagnant and often convoluted dramedy where the characters feel lost in their own story. The trio of siblings rarely connect on the screen, let alone the chemistry which is distant at best, creating an odd second half slump where we’re supposed to be invested in their journey, but are left to wonder why we should care in the first place. 


Sorenson’s script gives us little nuggets about how dad was an abusive alcoholic, but then never builds on that narrative thread or offers a sense of closure. It just feels thrown together. Taylor, playing the father, collected the easiest paycheck considering we only see him speak on Facetime, aside from a brief moment at the hospital where he asks for ice chips.  


Subplots and comical bits involving bickering sisters, a chance encounter with a bartender who lives in an RV, and an April Fools joke involving carbon monoxide poisoning are just a few examples of how lopsided things are. The editing is all over the place (weird split-screens and jump cuts are jarring), and the main character wears a heavy winter jacket, boots, and a hat throughout the entire movie despite traveling through San Diego into the Oregon wilderness. In one scene, the character bemoans how hot it is outside and we can see her profusely sweating, and in the next, she’s all bundled up like Ralphie’s little brother from “A Christmas Story.” These plot inconsistencies and developments, unfortunately, add up to a film that never finds its footing or earns its emotional catharsis. 


Grade: D+ 


FOR WHEN YOU GET LOST played as the opening film of the 2024 Cinetopia Film Festival. It has plans to be released later this year.  





3 comments

3 Comments


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