Written by: Hannah Tran | January 8th, 2022
June Again (JJ Winlove, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
While June Again may be a feature debut (from JJ Winlove) set in Australia, its craft feels mature and its story feels universal. We meet the titular character, June, living as a patient in a home that helps her deal with debilitating dementia. When a rare medical phenomenon temporarily revitalizes June’s memory, this home is turned into a horror as she struggles to come to terms with her condition and the realization that in the five years spent there, her children’s lives have fallen into shambles. Darkly funny and amply touching, June’s fleeting mission to restore harmony to her family is a simple but thoughtful meditation on understanding and forgiveness.
June Again is unafraid to make its characters have flaws. Each member of the family is given a strong personality filled with complexities. This only makes them more likeable and more realistic. Actresses Noni Hazlehurst (Ladies in Black), as June, and Claudia Karvan (Infidel), as her daughter, give particularly moving performances that truly shine within their numerous emotional interactions with one another.
What’s also immediately impressive is the commitment the filmmakers have to representing these characters’ internal struggles. The opening shots are filled with jump cuts, and the forceful editing throughout fosters the frustration, confusion, and clarity June experiences. While most viewers cannot understand what June is going through, the film does an outstanding job at helping its audience begin to imagine just that. And although the script itself may occasionally feel disorganized and lose momentum, the purposeful disorganization of the technical craftsmanship works purposefully for the narrative.
While some of the directions the screenplay takes feel unconvincingly convenient, the emotional breadth June Again offers overcomes nearly all of its dramatic flaws. Winlove manages to balance joy and heartbreak perfectly. The sadness, joy, and bitterness that comes with the parent-child relationships here are heartwarming and relatable. By the end, June may appear similar to the woman she was when first we met her, but the thoughtful direction transforms our perception and helps us understand the difficulty of living with dementia. Moreover, the transformations within June herself powerfully show these struggles and wonderfully demonstrate the individual and interpersonal ability to let go.