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Before You Know It

Family and other embarrassments

In Before You Know It, Rachel (Hannah Pearl Utt) is a mousy stage manager who lives in an apartment above the small theatre owned by her eccentric family. Despite being the younger sibling, Rachel has taken on the mantle of matriarch after her mother died. She sacrifices her personal life to ensure that her playwright father, Mel (Mandy Patinkin) and actor sister, Jackie (Jen Tullock) produce the play they’re counting on to keep the theatre up and running.

Poster for the quirky indie comedy Before You Know ItHer plan goes awry when tragedy strikes in the first act, leaving the family in financial straits and reeling from the discovery that the girls’ mother isn’t actually dead at all – she’s a soap opera star lounging in a millennial-pink trailer uptown. Rachel and Jackie set off to reunite with their mother, Sherrell (Judith Light), leaving Jackie’s daughter, Dodge (Oona Yaffe) in the hands of their unwitting accountant (Mike Colter). By the film’s end, tears are shed, jealousies uncorked, and secrets aired – but while each character has their disparate arc, they defy contrivance and are not quite what they seem. 

The film’s greatest boon is director/screenwriter/actor Hannah Pearl Utt, who is a force of nature in the role of Rachel. It takes a lot of balls to cast yourself against Mandy Patinkin and Judith Light, but Utt goes toe-to-toe with these dramatic greats. Equal parts winsome and buttoned-up, Rachel is impossible not to root for.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the film’s casual yet groundbreaking contributions to diverse on-screen representation. Rachel is a lesbian. Dodge is a half-Asian tomboy. Mike Colter charms as Charles, a black, ridiculously handsome, accountant. These little subversions aren’t the story of the film – they’re traits that are as natural to their respective characters as their gaits or patterns of speech.

Before You Know It is a surefooted debut for writing partners and co-stars Utt and Tullock who show themselves to be as dramatically competent as they are sweetly sardonic. If there’s any justice, this film will open a lot of doors for them.

– Lena Wilson, The Playlist

 

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