“I thought Europe would rub off on me,” June Larson (Rebecca Weaver) confesses to a friend in “June Falling Down.” It’s been a year since she traveled the world, on a jaunt through Belgium and Switzerland in the footsteps of her father, following his death after a long battle with cancer, and yet she’s right back home in Door County, Wisconsin for the occasion of the wedding of her best friend Harley (Nick Hoover), seemingly unchanged. Concerned she doesn’t sound worldly enough, she adds, “I listened to a lot of Neil Young,” only for her friend to ask, “Isn’t he Canadian?”
Although June may not have the best understanding of herself when we find her, the same can’t be said for Weaver, who wrote, directed and edited “June Falling Down” in addition to starring in it. With just a single creative partner Chris Irwin, who handled the sound, camera and music duties, Weaver makes a sharp, keenly observant feature debut where the simplicity of style allows for her distinct sensibilities to come through. This much is apparent from the very start of June’s journey, where she’s discovered on a beach in San Francisco, approached by a pair of vagabonds hoping she can spare some change. When she offers up a bacon-encrusted donut after searching for coins in her pocket, it’s rejected since they’re vegans, speaking to who each are immediately and the fact that June is woefully out of sync with her environs.
That disconnect only seems more pronounced once June arrives in Door County, with her mother (Claire Morkin) eager to tell her about the benefits of Reiki that she’s taken up since the family’s patriarch died and Harley showing only passing interest in her arrival, far more concerned about his impending nuptials — when he tells her “I penciled you in,” after she brings up hanging out later, it feels like he might as well jam that pencil right into her heart. She’s also burdened by the memories of her father, present everywhere in town with a trip to the local hardware store resulting in condolences or the sense memories from standing around in her family’s home that result in flashbacks, which Weaver nicely underplays, of his final days.
For better or worse, “June Falling Down” unfolds as if it’s unmediated, resisting the impulse to ever tell the audience what to feel, though the lack of urgency in some scenes also occasionally bogs the film down. Yet Weaver’s ear for dialogue is consistently invigorating and despite having just a two-person crew, her work with a cast of over 30 speaking roles, many of whom are nonprofessionals, breathe life into the film which, in spite of dealing heavily with grief, emerges satisfyingly sanguine. In conveying such a strong sense of place, the writer/director gets the emotional details of June’s experience just right too and does well to cast herself in the middle of it, setting the tone for the rest of her ensemble and serving herself as a writer by surrendering herself completely to an unguarded performance as June. When you have a unique voice like Weaver’s, it’s best not to dilute, and “June Falling Down” suggests it’s one you’ll want to hear more from.