As High as the Sky is an indie film made on a small budget by first time director Nikki Braendlin. It was shot with a mostly female cast and crew in Los Angeles in a mid-century Eichler modern home. But this doesn’t take away from the breadth of this film, which is a fantastic look at estranged sisters coming back together and facing new realities with a forgiving look.
The film packs an emotional and memorable punch with stellar performances by Caroline Fogarty (Big Love and Desperate Housewives) as Margaret and Bonnie McNeil (Sympathy for Delicious) as Josephine. Following an award-winning festival run, the film was released earlier this month on DVD by Cinema Libre Studio.
The film centers around Margaret, a woman with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). After being jilted by her fiancé, Margaret has grown accustomed to managing her loneliness by obsessively and compulsively organizing her already perfect home. But when her older sister, Josephine, and 10-year-old niece, Hannah, arrive unexpectedly for what seems an indefinite visit, Margaret’s carefully structured life is thrown into disarray, forcing her to adapt to the duo’s free-spirited lifestyle and to confront the years of estrangement.
Braendlin says, “I wanted to explore probable causes of these behaviors as well as potential ways to heal. I have experienced OCD symptoms, and they worsen when I’m working through a particularly difficult time. I was interested in examining the ramifications of someone who has never learned to identify, and thus process, her emotions at all. Additionally, and simultaneously, the film explores the complex and diverse relationships among mothers, daughters and sisters.”
Weighed down by guilt for abandoning her sister after their parents’ death and questioning her parenting skills, Josephine does her best to reconnect with Margaret by including her in family activities with Hannah – truth or dare games, backyard movie nights, and upside-down floating heads. Initially resistant, Margaret slowly opens herself to the mess of emotions and realizes a new definition of family, while learning that the bonds of sisterhood can be reestablished with time. But just as Margaret begins to embrace her new family, she discovers the truth behind Josephine’s visit. And while this truth is devastating for Margaret, both for its horrible implications and because she feels ambushed into making a decision that will change her organized life forever, it further tightens the newly achieved bond between the three characters.
I liked this film, as the fragile, obsessive Margaret is forced to open her home to Josephine and Hannah, for what she believes is just a short time. Things are awkward at first, as the niece isn’t too friendly and sort of mocks and disrespects the aunt that she has just met. However, after a while the three relatives warm up to each other, until distrust and chaos ensues when Josephine reveals her secret. I loved Hannah in her role as the obstinate pre-teen, and I also loved the caring exchange when Margaret uses her influence to break the hard shell that Hannah has formed.
This movie is a delightful departure from other movies that showcase females but that add a bit of hostility, name-calling and hair pulling. As High as the Sky has such clean lines, as bolstered by the Eichler modern home in which Margaret lives.
As High as the Sky has won top narrative-feature awards at: Palm Beach International Film Festival; Sonoma International Film Festival; Big Bear Lake International Film Festival; Idyllwild CinemaFest, as well as being an official selection at Heartland Film Festival, SOHO Int’l Film Festival and the Carmel Art and Film Festival.
The movie is out on DVD now. Visit www.cinemalibrestudio.com for more information.