Adolescence can be particularly crushing for girls; confidence is often shattered, and depression can later creep into the spaces that curiosity and wonder once filled. Lynn Shelton's Seattle-made debut feature, We Go Way Back, reiterates this in a beautifully funny and poignant way. Shown at SIFF and voted Best Narrative Feature at Slamdance this year, WGWB follows 23-year-old Kate (Amber Hubert), an aspiring Seattle theater actress, as she wrestles with job, relationship, and identity questions. (Tender songs from local singer Laura Veirs help set the mood.)
On her 23rd birthday, Kate opens a letter that she wrote as a precocious adolescent to her imaginary grown-up self. In perky voice-over, the letter asks, Is she happy? Obviously not. Kate moves in a dreamlike state, passive and indifferent as Jiffy muffins burn and various men take advantage of her. This is painfully apparent as Kate rehearses the title role in Hedda Gabler,even going so far as to learn Norwegian for the part, in order to please her "visionary" director (theater actor Robert Hamilton Wright, a Seattle institution), who also ridiculously instructs cast members to peel mountains of potatoes onstage. Throughout, we hear 13-year-old Kate's voice echo in adult Kate's thoughts. Eventually, the young Kate character (Maggie Brown) makes an appearance, leading to a moving confrontation.
Thankfully, WGWB isn't intended as a tragedy, farce, or chick flick. It will feel shockingly real to anyone—male or female—who has ever had childhood dreams of future success in a creative field. But a warning: This film may cause considerable reflection about your self-esteem. Bring your shrink's number to call after the show. MOLLY LORI