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August 31, 2011
Review - " Harvest "  -  (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Harvest
Directed by: Marc Meyers
Starring: Robert Loggia, Barbara Barrie, Jack T. Carpenter, Arye
Gross, Victoria Clark, Peter Friedman, Adriana Sevan, Kel O’Neill,
Christine Evangelista and Daniel Eric Gold

Robert Loggia is the beloved dying patriarch who is surrounded by
his children and grandchild in his last summer at his home in a
seaside community in Connecticut.

With fitting music by Duncan Sheik created just for the film, this is a
sometimes humorous but always real look at family issues: from end
of life to dementia to single parenting; sibling wars; young love and
even middle aged dating. Everyone can relate.

Siv’s family-first credo may have been heard countless times
through the ages, yet when he voices it late in Harvest, it has an
emotional weight that forces you to consider its relevance to your
own life. In the end, is that where our final loyalties belong, no matter
what?

During this exquisitely acted film, you come to sense the bonds and
the wounds binding three generations of Monopolis, who definitely
love one another, but with reservations. If Harvest didn’t convey the
complex reality of kinship so forcefully, it might be dismissed as yet
another dysfunctional-family drama, to use a noxious cliché that I
vow from this day hence to banish from my critical lexicon. Aren’t all
families dysfunctional in varying degrees?
The Monopolis’ woes — ailing grandparents, sibling rivalry, treachery and suspicion in money matters — are every family’s
issues, especially at life-and-death turning points. They live in a sprawling house in Madison, not far from New Haven. Siv’s
former line of work is never stated beyond the mention of his once having a shoe business. Although they live comfortably
enough, they are clearly not rich.

Mr. Meyers’s screenplay is the stronger for not straining to explain the grubby details of the family’s history beyond what
leaks out during conversations. When other relatives who have gone unmentioned suddenly show up, their peripheral
appearances speak for themselves.

Instead of factual details, Harvest concentrates on the psychological subtleties of the family’s day-to-day interactions during
a time of crisis. The quality of the ensemble acting is astonishing. Remarks, pauses and fluid facial expressions are so
minutely expressive that you often feel that you are observing real people in real time. Sustaining this level of verisimilitude
through an entire film is impossible, but Harvest comes closer than most.
Besides Siv (Robert Loggia),
who fights decrepitude and
illness with every ounce of
will, we meet his fluttery,
hollow-eyed wife, Yetta
(Barbara Barrie), whose
worsening dementia requires
constant attention; his sons,
Benny (Arye Gross) and
Carmine (Peter Friedman);
and his divorced daughter,
Anna (Victoria Clark).
Hovering around the house is
Yetta’s Mexican caretaker,
Rosita (Adriana Sevan), who
is distracted from her duties
by her affair with Benny.

The film’s point of view is
evenly split between Siv’s
and Josh’s. Siv seesaws from
bursts of energy (in one
scene he rides a bike into
town and orders a meal that is forbidden in his dietary regimen) to agonizing setbacks when his cancer acts up, and he is
bedridden, moaning and raving.

Anna’s son, Josh (Jack T. Carpenter), who returns from college for the summer, is inexorably drawn into the simmering war
between Benny, who has never left home, and Carmine, a local politician. If the screenplay barely begins to explain their
history of bad blood, which has to do with loans, debts, powers of attorney and competition for Siv’s favor, you feel its depth.
Beyond exalting the primacy of family, Siv, now facing the end, has begun preaching forgiveness. Josh, seizing grown-up
responsibility for the first time in his life, slyly inserts himself into the fray.

A gentle, reflective score weaves in and out of the movie and effectively evokes Josh’s introspective mood.

Harvest offers fair warning for viewers who haven’t been through the process that the final disposition of family property is
often an ugly moment of truth, when decades of stored emotional baggage suddenly explodes.

Another explosion takes place when Josh’s girlfriend, Tina (Christine Evangelista), arrives in Madison unannounced and
demands that he leave with her. At the same time, Josh confronts his mother about how he was forced to take her side in the
breakup of her marriage. As Anna, a woman stretched to the breaking point, Ms. Clark gives an understatedly wrenching
performance.

For all the tensions bared in the story, there are no cheap tricks. The line separating persuasive domestic drama and showy
histrionics is never breached. If this isn’t “King Lear” or Chekhov, “Harvest” shows the truth of life as it is lived, growing
messier and more complicated as the days dwindle and last chances loom.

This is one of those small movies so worthy of your time. A rare gem of a family film and coming-of-ager dealing with issues
that span three generations.