Naked As We Came
Writer-director Richard LeMay explores the knotted connections of love, worry, and resentment of a family with a dying mother in "Naked As We Came."
The title refers to a sentiment that the cancer-stricken matriarch, Lilly (S. Lue McWilliams) expresses: No matter how wealthy one might be in life, there’s no taking any of it with you when it’s time to go. Meantime, life’s most precious treasure is family--a realization that Lilly failed to arrive at earlier, before her two children were grown and occupied with the family business.
Neither son Elliot (Ryan Vigilant) nor daughter Laura (Karmine Alers) has seen Lilly for a year and a half. Now both of them arrive at Lilly’s home, a sprawling residence surrounded with greenhouses and gardens, after being notified of her seriously declining health. The end, it seems, is near, and Laura, a control freak, is dead set on getting Lilly into a hospital for her last few days.
Elliot isn’t so sure that Lilly wouldn’t be just as well off at home, surrounded by her beloved orchids... and tended to by her gardener, a hunky young man named Ted (Benjamin Weaver), a handy fellow to have around since he can also shop and cook. He also happens to be a best-selling novelist.
"Are you sleeping with him?" Laura demands.
"I wish," Lilly responds.
It seems that Elliot is more Ted’s type. The feeling is mutual, to Laura’s disdain and Lilly’s evident delight (she takes every chance to send the guys off together), but is their hookup a celebration of life in the face of death, or is it merely, as one character frets, "in poor taste?" And what’s the deal with the guy in the framed picture by Ted’s bedstead? The self-absorbed members of this family in turmoil obsess over the former question, and take precious little time to ponder the latter.
The movie soon settles into a rolling rhythm of bickering, tenderness, lachrymose music, heated accusations, and endless mea culpas. The effect is lulling; the film itself has a somnolent air about it, and even a late-breaking bombshell can’t shake it out of its stupor. But this is an atmospheric movie, gorgeously shot in wide-screen and offering many small moments that sharpen and define the characters. You may feel as stoned as the characters on screen (orchids aren’t the only things Lilly and Ted cultivate in those greenhouses), but this is a painless way to spend an hour and a half.