We begin with an introduction to a young teenage boy named Sam (George Ferrier). Sam is filled with hurt and suffering, struggling with his past and the tragic loss of his mother. Currently attending an all-boys boarding school, Sam is rather destructive and even on the verge of committing suicide. After receiving a suspension from his school, Sam is to return home with his father, Robert (Marton Csokas).
Sam’s grandmother, Ruth (Charlotte Rampling), has recently suffered an injury and is also now living under the same roof. Before, Sam had never met his grandmother and had zero desire to speak with her. But now, it’s not long until Sam is forced to look after Ruth as his father is required to deal with another matter and needs to leave town urgently. Now, Sam will be forced to get to know his grandmother, and the two will even begin to spend time together, infusing Sam with a spark of hope for his future.
Juniper is best described as a drama film. I’m confident many viewers will connect with the family themes and emotional dramas on display here, especially witnessing Sam slowly begin a touching relationship with his grandmother. Granted, Sam and Ruth don’t see eye to eye to begin with, and many foul words and actions of anger are used. Ruth is an old grandmother who is blunt, rude, demanding, and careless of others. She loves drinking heavily to pass the time. Naturally, actress Charlotte Rampling as Ruth is a major highlight throughout the film, but I must confess, this kind of role and performance doesn’t feel like anything overly new from the actress.
For the most part, I found Juniper to be slow-paced with its storytelling and a little sloppy when it comes to editing between scenes. Each scene doesn’t believably flow into the next, and some scenes (ones that are highly touching and engaging) are cut abruptly. There were many scenes where I was invested in a deep conversation between the leads, only to be left disappointed and confused by abrupt cuts. Being taken out of a touching moment felt cruel, and not knowing how that scene ended was frustrating to experience.
Overall, Juniper carries a few pleasing aspects relating to its dramatic tones and performances from both leads. I feel its story will resonate with many audiences, and many will connect with a story about the power of having a relationship with a grandparent. However, I found this film to be rather slow-paced. While the performances are pleasing, many touching moments lack chemistry, and some scenes end abruptly. Core details are sometimes either vague or questionable, which only left me wanting to know more insightful details about our leads.