From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Five eclectic women journey into the vortexes of Sedona where they are forced to confront the resurgence of their traumatic memories through shadow work.”
Folk, I ask you to bear with me while I detail a personal story. While some may not find it entirely necessary for this review, I think it helps convey my sentiments after viewing Reflect (2023), a SciFi/Comedy from writer/director Dana Kippel.
Reasonably early in my career as an Amazon Top 1,000 reviewer, a distributor reached out to me, offering a physical copy of his new feature in exchange for a write-up on the web’s premiere retailer. What he had produced was a part-biographical and part-fictional drama involving a famous model from the 1950’s; hoping to spur some wider interest in the film, he was doing what many merchants used to do on Amazon.com, basically trying to saturate the market with some much-needed publicity that he hoped would translate into sales. After taking a look at some of what had already been written, I was a bit skeptical, but – after a time – I conceded and said I’d be happy to take a gander.
Now, I won’t go into those particulars as they’re really not germane to the point I’m making.
The bottom line – so far as I was concerned – was that the film was a narrative mess, never quite ‘hitting the landing,’ as they say, or developing any plotline worth following all that closely. What reviews had already been published – while a bit harsh – were actually still somewhat flattering mostly because of the subject matter – that being a lovely lady in her prime – and still this was no five-star-opus that I think the director had intended. I don’t craft reviews like that – never have because I find them disingenuous and superficial – so I was honest in stating that the project was best viewed as a labor of love by the storyteller and maybe this woman’s most ardent fans but would likely struggle to find a following beyond that.
A few weeks after my post went live, the director reached out to me, demanding that I take my review down, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and that the story was never intended for an audience like me. When I pointed out that I was just being honest and – in his own words – he was proving my point, he then went to Amazon.com directly, trying to get not only my writing removed but also have me banned from the site. This was at a time when the retail giant was still standing beside its contributors, so the review stayed … but it’s since been scrubbed as their policies underwent an overhaul when Bezos and his managers summarily through many who helped build the behemoth into what it is today under the bus.
If you followed that yarn closely, then you might understand that my whole premise is that not each and every film is fundamentally for every possible viewer. While it’s likely every storyteller’s hope to gain the broadest viewership possible, there’s still something to be said for crafting content uniquely for a niche crowd. That niche might both understand and appreciate the accomplishment more than any mainstream audience could. Horror films speak to horror freaks; Fantasy flicks appeal to Fantasy fans; and a little ‘something something’ like Reflect likely has admirers hungry for its female-centric, introspective, New Age tomfoolery. It’s just that I wouldn’t consider myself among them.
Still, because I can ‘color outside the lines,’ I’m glad I watched Kippel’s affair of the soul. I’m not sure I’m coming away from it with the message or perspective she intended; and yet I can appreciate moments that its characters connected with me though I’ve never quite experienced the level of emotional struggles any endured.
Summer (played by Kippel herself) is missing the feeling of being alive in her life; and – as a consequence – she’s drawn into the idea of attending a vortex retreat in Sedona, Arizona where the promise of a $20,000 payday awaits the lucky individual who completes it. Though she may’ve been enticed with the promise of a cash prize, there are signs that life isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be; and, thus, she goes about recruiting a handful of her closest friends – Annie (Marissa Patterson), Liz (Jadelyn Breier), Nia (Ariana Brown), and Katie (Grace Patterson) – for the existential challenge of their lives. They band together on a road trip into metaphysical waters, where their respective issues, hang-ups, and phobias wind up getting prime time coverage whether they like it or not.
As it turns out, finding yourself might very well cost you more than you could possibly ever wish to offer.
I’m about to say something that might offend a good portion of the readership, but it is what it is: it’s been said that women and men are wired to think differently. Personally, I believe that each of us is wired to service whatever our individual needs might be, but I’ve always conceded that variations exist between the sexes regardless. For example, it’s been my experience that women do think more seriously about many subjects – at a younger age – than men do; and this explains why men are renowned for having mid-life crises … crap just doesn’t ‘hit the fan’ until later in life. While women may not fully escape similar psychological predicaments, it’s still been attributed as a male phenomenon for ages; and I’d like to think this is because women deal with stuff much sooner than men do.
That’s what I see in a feature like Reflect.
Still, maybe that’s just the man in me talking.
Kudos are extended to the strong ensemble. Not everyone is pitch perfect – some characters feel a bit stereotypical here and there, but it’s hard to transcend the predictable when so little screen time is shared amongst so many – but Marissa Patterson, in particular, really hit a good stride with her portrayal of a suicidal woman who can’t quite find her way back from the darkest impulses. It could be that she was the most relatable for me in the group, but – whatever the case – I saw her work as deserving extra mention.
Reflect (2023) was produced by Crazy Carrot Films. According to the publicity materials provided, the film is presently available for streaming via such platforms as Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I found the major of the sights and sounds to be quite exceptional. (Note: there are some trippy video effects rendered digitally that give some sequences an otherworldly experience, and some might find them a bit distracting, but methinks they’re intended to just be part of the experience.) Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? As I viewed this production via streaming, there were no special features to consider.
Reflect (2023) suitable takes real world challenges and gives then an ‘out there’ screen exploration against the backdrop of the wonderful scenic Sedona, Arizona. (Folks, I’ve been there many times, but you can never get enough of it. Plan yourselves a trip. And, yes, I’ve even toured the vortices.) As a male, I won’t say that I understood the plight of each character – nor the depth or complexity of why they’re still carrying that emotional baggage – and I could understand why some might even dismiss the effort as one more ‘chick flick’ not intended for my sex. Nothing could be further from the truth; this one’s about the pursuit of healing, and, yes, these ladies could all have used a little time under the Arizona sun.
In the interest of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Crazy Carrot Films provided me with complimentary streaming access to Reflect (2023) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.