“Would you want this family raising a baby after this?” Daisy (Elizabeth Rodriguez) asks, as much to herself as anyone else in the room, after her baby shower is upended by her sister-in-law Serene (Daphne Rubin-Vega) in “Allswell.” Daisy’s kid has not yet arrived – and may not still, as she’s enlisted a surrogate (Mackenzie Lansing) who appears increasingly unsure she’ll go through with what’s being asked of her, but Serene’s daughter Connie (Shyrley Rodriguez) appears to be gone for good after a confrontation with her mother over the saucy pics she’s put up on Instagram and what’s assumed to be the pursuit of a career that would be just as disagreeable. Standing witness to all this is Daisy’s older sister Ida (Liza Colón-Zayas), who has prided herself on having few problems of her own, but absorbing others’ as kind ear at a community health clinic, undoubtedly needing no professional training when this craziness has always been around the corner.
This occasion around midway through Ben Snyder’s spirited dramedy is actually rare in bringing all three women into one room, and one might suspect even if they all didn’t receive a story credit that Rodriguez (a full-fledged co-writer with Snyder), Rubin-Vega and Colón-Zayas all had a hand in writing “Allswell” when the structure allows them all such juicy parts. In fact, a bit like the Marvel movies leading up to the next “Avengers,” an anticipation builds between meetings of even two members of the central trio when all have full lives to tend to, from Daisy, a restauranteur who is on the cusp of realizing her dream of motherhood in spite of being single, to Serene, who besides her drama with her daughter has to deal with the reemergence of Connie’s father Desmond (Felix Solis), who has life-threatening health issues beyond the drug use that likely poisoned their relationship. The three were closer once, but “Allswell” is content to get spend its time in the present chaos and watch the women navigate out of it, occasionally accepting each other’s help and just as often adding to one another’s anxiety.
Boasting an ensemble so good no one needs an introduction to engage, “Allswell” has that rare quality where any character that pops up would seem to have a rich life outside the frame, but that’s in no way to suggest that what’s in front of you is somehow dull with cinematographer Oren Soffer catching the casual beauty of characters who roll with the punches with lively compositions that take in the New York setting, full of vivid colors, and situations that may lend themselves to melodrama yet with Rodriguez and Snyder’s script and the effortless naturalism of the actors really feel as if you’ve slipped into someone else’s life. Besides Rodriguez, Rubin-Vega and Colón-Zayas, the deep bench includes the always welcome Max Casella and Michael Rispoli as Daisy’s business partner and Ida’s (sparring) partner, respectively, and while every exchange is weighted with personal history that would take far more than the film’s brisk 94-minute run time to unpack in words, the actors can pull it off with far less, ideal for a film in which everyone may feel as though they’re taking on the world and find happiness in the small victories that are typically imperceptible but come across as major here.
“Allswell” will screen again at Tribeca on June 15th at 6:30 pm at the Village East and June 17th at 2:45 pm at the Cinepolis.