SXSW Film Review: Recovery

Covid-19 comedy feels dated already

Whitney Call and Mallory Everton in SXSW 2021 title Recovery

The staggering impact of COVID-19 on the entire world has had an inordinate amount of ramifications, one of which is the idea of the “pandemic movie”. While for some films this takes the form of low-key projects separated from the reality of the coronavirus, for others it means tackling it head on.

For the SXSW-selected, pandemic-focused flick Recovery (co-directed by Stephen Meek and Mallory Everton) it also means seeing how the rules of a society under quarantine translate to a cross-country road trip comedy.

The premise is simple: two bubbly sisters, Blake (Everton) and Jamie (Whitney Call) are trapped within the confines of their home when a mail alert that there’s been an outbreak at their grandmother’s nursing home sends them on an unexpected rescue mission. Along the way they deal with the hazards of a newly precarious world including having to mask up, the dangers of unsanitized gas pumps, and coping with COVID-denying relatives.

If that all sounds a little obvious and hackneyed, well... that’s because it is. It’s difficult to discern if COVID humor in movies had a tiny window of success that essentially no movies could fit into in time, or if it’s a subject that’s annoying to see broached altogether. Nevertheless, the worst bits in this film directly result from the attempt to find humor amongst the pandemic routines and news we’ve already been inundated with. When we’ve all lived within the confines of this crisis for an entire year, it’s next to impossible for jokes about Tom Hanks contracting the virus to come off as anything other than tacky.

Most frustrating is that these clearly talented comedians and writers are stuck with lame gags. Everton and Call have the chemistry to make a bit land and they’re thankfully afforded adequate time to goof off about subjects not directly related to the pandemic. The majority of the runtime is spent encumbered within a car with them, meaning they’re left with the daunting task of carrying the movie with seemingly improvised conversations. They’re more than up for it when left to riff at their leisure, and there are genuine laughs to be had. But the movie they’re stuck in may make you wish the world was back to normal so you could just watch them at an improv club.


Narrative Spotlight

World Premiere

On the Road(trip) to Recovery filmmaker Q&A. Fri., March. 19, 5:30pm

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

South By Southwest Has a New Investor
South By Southwest Has a New Investor
With 50% ownership in SXSW LLC, P-MRC provides “lifeline”

Kevin Curtin, April 18, 2021

SXSW Film Review: <i>When Claude Got Shot</i>
SXSW Film Review: When Claude Got Shot
Documentary goes beyond the headlines of Black-on-Black crime

Shane Pfender, April 7, 2021

More by Trace Sauveur
Terrifier 2
More gore as the indie horror smash gets an even grislier sequel

Oct. 7, 2022

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
Where's the beating heart in this beloved children's book adaptation?

Oct. 7, 2022


SXSW 2021, SXSW Film 2021, Recovery, Mallory Everton, Whitney Call, Stephen Meek

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle