It was incredibly unfortunate that the first time I became familiar with writer/director Lynn Shelton was when I heard she had passed away on May 16, 2020. She had an extensive career in directing episodes of television series such as Glow, The Mindy Project, and Fresh Off the Boat. She also made eight feature films. Her 2014 movie, Laggies, is currently streaming on Netflix, so I watched it the other night and found it to be fantastic. It’s a really sweet film filled with plainspoken comedy and contemplative themes of adulthood and aging.
Of her feature film directorial efforts, Laggies is the only one Shelton did not write herself. It was written by Andrea Seigel, who I think did an excellent job with the script. The film looks at the quarter-life angst of Megan (Kiera Knightley), who is on the precipice of a major decision that will determine the rest of her life. In a moment of panic, she walks away from everything, taking a break from her life. In this time, she befriends a high schooler named Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz). This friendship allows Megan to relive her adolescence as she contemplates in which direction she ultimately wants to take her life.
Laggies portrays a tumultuous time in everyone’s life. We are past the point of being a child; the stage of continuously being in school is now behind us. We are simultaneously just entering the adult world: working full time, paying bills, and making decisions that will outline the rest of our lives. It is a transitionary period that we all experience in one form or another. In it, many people try to figure out who they are and assess what they truly want in life.
This is beautifully captured in the film through its incredibly authentic characters. When dealing with such a universal subject matter, a movie like this hinges on the believability of its characters. For the audience to be able to resonate with the central struggle, they first need to buy into the characters. They all feel like genuine people, brought to life by fantastic performances from an eclectic supporting cast including Ellie Kemper, Jeff Garlin, Sam Rockwell, and Kaitlyn Dever.
Laggies touches upon the concept of how we oftentimes have specific ideas of how our lives are supposed to go. We’ve charted them out entirely in our heads, and we expect everything to adhere to it. However, our lives have no predestination. As much as we try to control it and shape it to become what we want it to be, life will always subvert our expectations. Sometimes that subversion can lead to something truly wonderful, something we never would have initially expected. The question is, can we be open to changing our plans when new circumstances arise, or will we lose out on what things could have been because we refused to act on the opportunity?
While it doesn’t do much in terms of representing people of color, Laggies is written and directed by women, featuring women in the leading roles. Its universal subject matter is explored through a female framework, which isn’t always the case. A lot of times when filmmakers are trying to broaden something to make it relate to everyone, it is told through a male perspective. That can be seen as the default gender. Having women behind the camera helps negate that, and allows for a more authentic story to be told.
Laggies is a fantastic movie, filled with down-to-earth characters, transcendent themes, and witty comedy. It speaks to a lot of truths about us as people: how we think and how we feel. It tackles individual maturity, and how our experiences dictate how we look at the world. It’s a film with a lot to say, which wouldn’t ultimately mean anything if the story wasn’t compelling and if the characters weren’t convincing. Luckily, they are. Lynn Shelton gave the actors a lot of room to improvise, which I think is a big reason why the characters feel as organic as they do.
This is a film I will revisit. For all of its humor, it has a lot of depth and intricacy. Laggies makes me want to delve more into Lynn Shelton’s filmography, including Outside In, another movie of hers also available on Netflix.
Author: Nathanael Molnár, originally published [5/29/2020]