A six year-old boy comes home, drops his books, fetches a glass of milk and a drawing he did and calls for his mother. He finds her, in bed, empty bottles of pills littering the night stand.
He puts down the milk, pulls the covers up to her chin and kisses her. “Goodbye, Mom.”
The boy has to endure his father’s furious erasure of her from their lives, burning mementos, photos, the works. “She was NEVER here…She did this to US. Understand me?”
“Just Say Goodbye” begins with those gripping moments, and proceeds to squander them in a lukewarm melodrama about Jesse (Max MacKenzie) ten years later, bullied, guilt-ridden and miserable, with only one friend, our narrator Sarah (Katerina Eichenberger).
Screenwriter Layla O’Shea, director Mark Watling and star MacKenzie make this kid so passive that it takes a while for empathy to build up enough before Jesse hits his one friend, his great defender Sarah with his Big Reveal.
“I can’t wait till I’m gone.” He’s talking about college, right? Wait, he’s just 16. What he’s really talking about is taking Mom’s way out. He’s killing himself.
The rest of the movie is Sarah trying to talk him out of it and Jesse feigning glibness at his big plans.
“You’re 16. You make it sound like life’s over with already.”
Jesse insists that every shirt he buys has a pocket because he’s saved one photograph of his mother from his dad’s (William Galatis) Mom-Purge. That’s a nice detail in a movie that could use a lot more of those to go with the kid growing up to be an aspiring artist, the standard-issue (and way too old for high school) bully (Jesse Walters) and the bottles Dad crawled into after Mom killed herself.
The dialogue is stilted, and in general the movie could use a few more hints that these teens are real teenagers — in their preoccupations, their hormones, their speech.
Jesse just takes every injury and insult the bullying Chase dishes out, leaving it to Sarah to ineffectually stick up for him, even when the non-swimmer is dragged into the lake where he might well die.
“You were letting yourself drown!”
“We’ve all got to go sometime.”
The performances are generally tepid, with Eichenberger not capable of ginning up sympathy for MacKenzie’s Jesse by herself. His motives seems more questionable than your average big screen suicide and MacKenzie’s performance is more morose than empathetic.
There’s tension in the finale, but everything that comes between that gripping opening and that climax has a seen-this-before/I-know-what’s-coming quality.
It’s topical and never terrible. But “Just Say Goodbye” plays as if a word was left out of end of the title — “Already.”
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, suicide, alcohol abuse and profanity
Cast: Max MacKenzie, Katerina Eichenberger, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Jesse Walters, William Galatis
Credits:Directed by Matt Walting, script by Layla O’Shea. A Leomark Studios release.
Running time: 1:46