SXSW Film Review: Inheritance (USA, 2017) is a powerful piece on finding closure and oneself

When Mara (Jessica Kaye) returns to her childhood home of Belize bringing her lover Aaron (Daniel Ahearn) with the hope to reconnect with her estranged father and brother who live there. After landing, she is met with the heart-breaking news that her father has just passed away, shortly before his 70th birthday. Mara is distraught but does not tell her brother Ben (Mark Webber) about it. Tensions arise between them but when Ben overdoses on their father’s medications, Mara is forced to care for him. Drunk at all-night wake Mara reveals secrets about the father, changing forever the relationships of those closest to him. Mara soon learns that she must embrace her past while continuing to fight for intimacy at the present.

The directors Laura E. Davis and Jessica Kaye begin the film slow at first, which can be rather unpleasant with the lack of dialogue but as momentum builds it pays off in a big way. The theme delivered with subtle beauty is that ‘there is no reason to love for the sake of love’. Highlighting their ability to understand Mara’s character story, development and depth. With the film tackling the issue of parental death, the question of what exactly closure is is powerfully emphasised through Mara’s plight.

Inheritance investigates the seven stages of grief through Mara with a greater emphasis at the guilt and depression stages. She compensates these stages with a need to indulge in sexual gratification on an almost hourly basis regardless of Aaron’s reluctance. There is genuine chemistry between the two leads in all of their scenes together and that indefinitely aided in feeling the realism of this film.

In the conclusion of the second act, there is a scene with incredible editing and pacing that will have you engulfed with emotions and at the edge of your seat. At this point, a real dichotomy is made by the discussion of whether keeping up appearances is worth more than the truth. In life we are not perfect, mistakes are made but all of us do share a common goal of leaving behind some legacy that at least someone will remember. Inheritance shows that despite all of our flaws there is always something in each of our lives that will bind someone else together.

The third act culminates with the understanding that closure is just for the living and the dead’s own wishes are not respected. We hold our own selfish need of closure above them, the film tells us to let go of this need. Through this lesson, Mara finally reaches her acceptance of living her life without ever reconnecting with her father. A shocking taboo is revealed in the final 10 minutes of the film which will change everything and this for some ruin the film. However, on further inspection this had been foreshadowed sporadically over the course of the film.

On a negative note,  there are a few minor scenes in the film, which tend to be on the sappy side and detract from the film. These scenes, however, could have either been removed or been done another way to push those particular angles further. Secondly, there were some camera angles which seemed to depersonalise the characters  in key moments that should show the opposite. Lastly, the step-mother of Mara and Ben who was very intriguing character and brought very deep moments to the film. Her character did not feel fleshed out enough and appeared to be a real missed opportunity to take a different perspective on the death of their father.

Inheritance is a spectacular film that grabbles and ties together very personal and contentious real life issues. With its high quality acting, direction and cinematography the film is sure to draw a lot of attention coming out of SXSW.


Inheritance premiered today at SXSW in Austin, Texas. To find out additional screening information, head HERE.


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