Review by Joseph Fayed
How does one defend having a sexual relationship with a minor? That's the biggest question asked in What Comes Around. The dilemma in which this question is asked happens to play out twice in the film, leading to nothing more than a sloppy conclusion.
Anna has turned 17. She is surprised by a visit from her long-distance boyfriend Eric, who turns out to be much older than he said he was. Anna and Eric both fear there will be consequences for them if Anna's mom Beth and her cop boyfriend Tim find out. But as time goes by, it appears Anna and Eric aren't the only ones with a major revelation.
Nothing says "cat and mouse game" less than not trying to get caught with your underage girlfriend by her mother. The film has been marketed as that when in reality there's nothing thrilling about turning a blind eye to such behavior, which — as you follow the plot — every main character seems to do exactly that one way or another. Clearly, there are complex feelings involved with this subject matter, but the story's structure and poorly handled tonal shift don't allow Anna, the one being groomed here, to truly break down the dynamics of her relationship. For reasons that tie in with Eric and Beth, she is left merely as a piece to the puzzling aspect that brings the three of them together.
I wish I could say the lead performances elevated this film to a higher caliber, but they just come across like they're supposed to be guests on a crossover between Dr. Phil and To catch a predator with Chris Hansen. The script also heavily glosses over how manipulative a relationship like Anna and Eric's really is. This also poorly sets up the climax of the story between Anna, Eric, and Beth. When there is finally a confrontation between the three of them, the motivations behind their actions become even more confusing. A psychological drama does require some sort of exposition, and this film really doesn't tie up its loose ends well.
What Comes Around is nothing short of a letdown. What could've been a thriller about the ripple effects grooming has on those who experience it turns into a bland story that takes too long to do anything at all with its Lifetime-esque twist. With performances that were also on par with Lifetime movie acting, you can't argue this film had the potential to excel either. Based on her most recent work, it seems she should have enrolled in one of those labs offered at Sundance, the little film festival founded by her legendary father Robert Redford.
What Comes Around hits theaters and VOD on August 4.