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Reflect (2023) Review

January 9th is a big day for Dana Kippel. Hellhounds, in which she stars, gets released and, more importantly, so does Reflect in which she not only stars but makes her debut as a writer and director. And it would be hard to find two more different films to do it with.

Reflect is the story of Summer (Dana Kippel). She’s unhappy with her boyfriend James (Corey Brooks, Can’t Sleep) and her life in general. What does one do in a situation like that? Gather up some friends, Nia (Ariana Brown), Katie (Grace Patterson, Slotherhouse, The Demon Inside), her sister Annie (Marissa Patterson, A Corporate Christmas, Our Life As It Is) and Liz (Jadelyn Breier) and head off to Sedona, Arizona for spiritual retreat. Not just any retreat, either, this is a “Spiritual Obstacle Course” that offers a cash prize to the winner.

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Intercut with this is some behind the scenes footage from “The Game of Life”, the number one show in the galaxy for over 3,000,000 weeks. Beale (Ryan Jack Connell, The Breakdown, Introducing Jodea) has reluctantly been put in charge of this week’s episode, with the girls as its unwitting contestants.

Now if it was me, I’d have been back in my car five minutes after Hermès (Joe Filippone, Tapes from the Underground, 40uR) started his ridiculous pseudo New Age welcome. Instead, they change into outfits that look like leftovers from Midsommar and are on their way to course number one.

Reflect isn’t meant to be a conventional film, it’s meant to be a metaphysical journey into the characters’ minds and spirits, especially that of Summer. And I kept waiting for that to happen, but what I got were scenes where the characters have to tell each other what they hate about them. That’s got all the depth of a party board game, as does the monologue it produces. Or following the revelation that one of the women is a lesbian, with a TV preacher quoting Leviticus while the woman vanishes.

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By the time the trippy camerawork kicked in I was regretting not watching Reflect when I could take some edibles. By the time the script starts referencing jade eggs and taking its characters on a field trip to The Birthing Cave, or “Mother Nature’s Womb” as the film refers to it, I thought I was watching Goop: The Movie.

Metaphysical Film: A metaphysical film uses the unique elements of the filmmaking process (cinematography, editing, special effects, etc.) to direct attention to the question of “reality.” A metaphysical film uses visual effects to transcend reality in a way that implicitly asks (or attempts to answer) metaphysical questions, quoted on Reflect’s website.

Kippel says Reflect is a metaphysical movie, and I was expecting something a bit more than superficial pop psychology and cinematographer Bernie Tarin (Woman in the Maze, Anti Corona Virus) showing off his lens collection. And that’s really all the film serves up, because despite claiming to be a deep dive into the characters’ fears and psyche, it barely gets beyond skin deep with trite messages about eating disorders, parental issues, etc.

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It’s obvious that the filmmakers were making a sincere effort to make a statement, and perhaps if I was more New Age, or an aging hippy, it might have resonated with me. But this didn’t give me any desire to go find myself, let alone question the reality of the world around me, although it wouldn’t surprise me to find out Earth was the subject of an alien reality TV show.

Cranked Up will release Reflect to VOD and Digital Platforms on January 9th. You can check the film’s website for more information.

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