There’s arguing — not loud, not heated — at the funeral reception.
It was a Jewish funeral, and the debate is over the deceased’s last wish — to be cremated.
But there is no arguing over why “she” killed herself. Inez was bipolar, an addict in and out of AA.
Still, there is a mystery to “Inez & Doug & Kira,” one the survivors will try to piece together in this somber and engrossing if not-wholly-satisfying drama. The connections were there, however tenuous and fragile. The hurt and guilt linger.
Because it’s hard to hear cries for help with new urgency when you’ve been hearing them for years.
The debut feature of editor-turned-director Julia Kots is shrouded in pain, grounded in addiction and suicide. The actors — save for Tawny Cypress (TV’s “The Blacklist”), who has to play the manic Inez — mimic a kind of exhaustion that a lot of people will recognize.
Because loving and caring about someone with problems at this level is as draining as relationships get.
“She had a talent for driving people apart,” might be the best description of our dead protagonist.
Michael Chernus of TV’s “Tommy” is Doug, a New York magazine writer. Talia Thiesfield is Kira, Doug’s partner and “baby momma.”
Inez was her twin sister, and flashbacks show us how tight they were. Doug was Inez’s reluctant but devoted sponsor. How that came to be is interesting. How he came to be with Kira even more so.
Kots takes us into these interwoven lives in baby steps. One of the most gripping and realistic AA meetings ever put on the screen is a highlight, but randy-frank sister chat about sex and men and circumcisions figure in, too.
Doug, for all his sponsorship sharing, has huge passages of Inez’s life he doesn’t know. He’s having nightmares with her in them.
Kira? She’s struggling to maintain calm through a difficult pregnancy. And she just buried her sister.
Kots, who also scripted “Inez & Doug & Kira” invents some marvelous details in everybody’s backstory, some of them seen in flashback, some glimpsed in dreams, others related in vivid word-portrait anecdotes.
The film has a tonal, visual and messaging consistently that honors the writer-director’s editing past. People from that film specialty know how difficult it is to keep the the whole in sync without maintaining it every single day in every shot and scene on the set.
The dialogue is unfussy, limited but rich. Telling a therapist he’s lost “my best friend” Doug wonders “if grownups even SAY that.”
“Cancer?” the shrink wants to know, getting him back on subject.
The muted tone and funereal gloom that linger in the film gives it a mortician’s remove. We aren’t necessarily moved by this tragedy and the ways those who survived contributed to it or failed to avert it.
But suicide can be like that. Even in the “easy answers,” there’s little satisfaction and no comfort.
MPAA Rating: unrated, sex, substance abuse, profanity
Cast: Tawny Cypress, Michael Chernus and Talia Thiesfield
Credits: Written and directed by Julia Kots. A 1091 release.
Running time: 1:38