Grief and guilt are a powerful combination, especially since there is no set standard on how to process them. There’s no pill you can take or procedure you can undergo to rid yourself of these emotions and that’s part of what makes them such a fascinating topic for filmmakers. Liz Garcia’s One Percent More Humid expounds on this idea as a violent collision between youthful simplicity and the complexity of insurmountable remorse.
Synopsis: “A pair of childhood friends reunite during their summer break from college and deal with a traumatizing experience from their past.”
Iris (Juno Temple – The Brass Teapot, Away) and Catherine (Julia Garner – Netflix’s Ozarks, The Americans) reunite a few months removed from a shared tragedy that has driving an unspoken wedge between them, but also inexorably links the two forever. Both reeling from the recent trauma undertake different paths to cope with the regret they feel.
One Percent More Humid languishes in the oppressive heat of the small New England town it’s set in. Mirroring the weight both girls carry, the movie is so heavily saturated in the humid air you can vicariously feel the sheen of sweat forming on your lower back. In the daze of summer’s full, inescapable bloom, the mania that overtakes people is enhanced ten-fold on both Iris and Catherine’s already fragile psychological states. The weather, combined with the impending lawsuit from the family of the girl they accidentally killed, causes each girl to finally reach their breaking point.
The film leans a little more heavily on Juno Temple’s performance as Iris and her relationship with Gerald (her college advisor, portrayed by Alessandro Nivola – probably best known for his role as Pollux Troy in Face/Off). As a way self-medicating she strikes up an impassioned affair with the married professor – perhaps to distract herself from the messiness of reality within the relative simplicity of a relationship that cannot evolve beyond its current dynamic. The controlled chaos Temple brings to Iris tricks the viewer into believing she’s not just as despondent as Catherine. When she’s with Gerald, things make sense and she is in full control of what’s happening to her.
In her private moments without Gerald, we see Iris’ true nature; she is filled to the brim with sadness and frustration and is powerless to them. Her sexual confidence is clearly a mask, but for Gerald (dealing with his own litany of uncertainties and insecurities) it is a welcome escape/diversion of his own.
Where Iris seeks out pleasure and control, Catherine flings herself into emotional and physical self-flagellation. Her sexual relationship with Billy (the brother of the girl who she accidentally murdered) is a self-induced punishment. Devoid of pleasure or relief, the hollow relationship between the two is equally as sad as Iris’, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. While Iris escapes into a fantasy, Catherine submerges herself into misery, unknowingly(?) trying to pay a penance she knows will never be enough. Garner’s portrayal of the inwardly hateful, sardonic counterpoint to Temple’s more mercurial Iris bristles with a forlorn intensity that heavies the heart.
Ultimately the film doesn’t neatly resolve the problems at hand and nor should it. What Iris and Catherine are dealing with isn’t neat or tidy – to end it with a swift resolution would be antithetical to the film’s intentions. There are no quick fixes or fantasies to escape into when it comes to such a sobering event that forces its way into every fiber of your being. Those simplistic answers are fruitless endeavors and a simplistic ending would be equally so for this film.
One Percent More Humid is available on any reputable VoD platform so if you’re in the mood for a depressing summertime jaunt – definitely check it out.
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