Cinequest 2023 Review: A Thorny Family Tree Leads to a Sharp Family Comedy in Chelsea Bo’s “No Right Way”

“Are you the type of person that showers every day?” Georgie (Ava Acres) asks her half-sister Harper (Chelsea Bo) in “No Right Way,” mildly perplexed at why anyone would bathe until it was absolutely necessary. Separated by 14 years, with Georgie just entering her teens, the two have entirely different attitudes towards life perhaps in part because of their age, but also because of how they’ve come to see a way forward in the world with their absent father Mark supporting each financially but hasn’t offered much more otherwise, leaving them in the care of mothers who have been elusive in other ways. Harper has made it her life’s work to keep things tidy, finding work as a professional stylist for photo shoots well-suited to the sense of control she’d like to have over every part of her routine, while Georgie has adopted rugged survivalism in response to the drug habit that keeps her mother Tiff (Eliza Coupe-Marks) from taking her and her brother Kai to school in the morning, taking every obstacle as it comes.

However, only Harper can help Georgie – at least in theory, when child protective services becomes aware that the 13-year-old has been taking care of her brother and the power bill hasn’t been paid for their home in Vegas – and with Mark traveling abroad on business, she makes the drive out to the desert and back to provide guardianship for a month while Tiff ostensibly gets her affairs in order. The stage is set for an odd couple comedy in Bo’s feature directorial debut, but “No Right Way” is deeper and more unusual than that, taking the strange but surely not uncommon family tree created by promiscuous partners, starting with Mark, to look at what constitutes the ties that bind. Although age and environment come up as slight divisions between the two, Harper and Georgie have more trouble relating to one another because of how they see the same people in their lives in a different way, with Mark’s fulfillment of his fiduciary responsibilities enough for Harper to look past how he hasn’t been there for his kids while it is glaring to Georgie and Georgie knows that Tiff is key to holding the family together even if Harper sees her as the reason why it’s all falling apart.

Bo shows an impressively light touch with both the story and the performances and acquits herself well as an actor opposite Acres, who smartly plays Georgie with a cool ambivalence that makes her especially hard for Harper to read. A bit of the narrative scaffolding is exposed with a friend of Georgie’s back home in Vegas who largely exists to drive the plot, but it wouldn’t stand out if the rest of “No Right Way” didn’t come across so organically and there’s both a real interest and sense of compassion in how everyone has their own particular relationship to each other connecting in a way that might not make sense to the rest of the world, but does to them. As the film enters one home after another that seems chaotic, the internal logic and love behind every situation starts to emerge and ultimately in telling a story of parts that align unexpectedly, “No Right Way” takes shape accordingly, turning disparate elements into a strong yet playful dramedy.

“No Right Way” will screen at Cinequest Film Fest on August 25th at the Mountain View Showplace ICON Theatre & Kitchen.

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