Review by Sean Boelman
Executive produced by Cooper Raiff (the filmmaker behind this year’s Sundance sensation Cha Cha Real Smooth), Sophia Silver’s coming-of-age film Over/Under is an indie gem debuting on the festival circuit. Wholesome and warm-hearted, even if it isn’t too unconventional, this nonetheless heralds the arrival of an interesting new voice on the scene.
The movie follows two inseparable best friends who spend a series of several summers growing up, growing both together and apart in unexpected ways. It’s a pretty standard coming-of-age film, down to the very run-of-the-mill framing device that it uses, but it is the sincerity with which the script — co-written by Silver and Sianni Rosenstock — is written that makes it effective.
With a runtime of under an hour and a half and solid pacing, the movie breezes by. Still, there are some tonal inconsistencies in the film that are perhaps a bit troubling. Some of the segments are much more on the awkward, comedic side, whereas others are more somber and dramatic. It’s a balancing act, and while it’s clear that the movie is trying to capture the volatility of real life, it doesn’t quite succeed in doing so.
The conversations between the characters explore many of the common themes of growing up — identity, sexuality, responsibility, etc. — but it doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the discussion. Yet even though there have been other films to discuss these ideas frankly before, they are so universal that movies can continue to explore them in poignant ways.
The film’s success really hinges around the central friendship between the two characters, and Silver and Rosenstock do an exceptional job of building this dynamic. It’s a really complex friendship that they share, and one that is hard to capture in a way that feels authentic and not cheesy, but it’s been done exceptionally well here.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this movie is the fact that the two lead performances are both phenomenal. Emajean Bullock and Anastasia Veronica Lee are both very talented child actors, bringing their all to the roles and having exceptional chemistry together. Even more astounding is that they seem entirely comfortable in their characters’ skin, something that is exceedingly unusual for actors their age.
Stylistically, Silver’s direction is nice and warm, although it isn’t anything particularly original. You can tell that there is a sentimentality and nostalgia for the days of childhood in her approach, and it’s quite infectious. Silver’s voice behind the camera seemingly isn’t fully developed yet, but it is her debut after all.
Over/Under is a sweet little movie, and even if it doesn’t do anything particularly new within the genre, it’s a decently-made entry. Sophia Silver has made something charming and promising, and it will be exciting to see what she does next.
Over/Under debuted at the 2022 San Francisco Film Festival.