Those who struggled with popularity at school take note: The Reunion is Swedish writer-director-actor Anna Odell’s way of dealing with that dreaded ‘school reunion’, where everyone is meant to be grown up and bygones are bygones, conveniently forgotten to give an air of adult confidence and sophistication on one night ‘you will have fun’.
The Reunion is a fictitious account of Anna the famous artist who doesn’t get an invite to her class reunion, then makes a film about what would have happened had she gone along. Consequently, she tries contacting her former classmates to confront them with her film and document their reactions.
Beginning with ‘the film’ of what happens and the harsh truth that Anna wants to get out on the dining table with certain ex-classmates who made her early life hell, The Reunion is a slow burner on an obvious collision course. It’s very cathartic in nature, a very honest piece of filmmaking to blow the fake adult encounters out of the water. How easily we forget past foibles, hey?
It also throws up a number of interesting (and poignant) questions, such as how one was ultimately treated early on by one’s peers, does impact the psyche later in life. The whole idea of being the underdog or bullied making you stronger is true to an extent, but not without fallout – just how different would Anna’s existence have been if she had been greater accepted?
Odell is quite captivating as the primary subject with her intriguing elf-like looks and air of control – it’s hard to imagine anyone taking offence at her. Such composure allows the others’ personalities to be better reflected against her cool exterior, to watch them deal with their impending predicament.
Odell’s film is like an addicts anonymous meeting, filmed with you very much present in the room, witnessing every squirm, retort and sideways glance. The film’s end result is shocking, so much so that you cannot wait for it to be shown to the real classmates. And it’s here that not all react in quite the satisfying way that you might expect them to. In fact, that’s part of the surprise for the viewer who might expect more drama. The finale of the overall film is a very diluted one, in fact, and seems to end with more of a fizzle, like an old firework, than a big bang of contentment. Odell seems to struggle to know how to deliver a conclusive strike against her tormentors.
The Reunion is almost theatrical in nature – staged without the melodramatics. It is, nevertheless, still a curious piece of filmmaking to muse over, not only because its subject is a universal one that many can relate to, but also just trying to decipher what its end message is, is the real head scratcher we are left with by Odell.