Writer and Director JJ Winlove takes us on a journey we all fear and many of us have experienced from the periphery: watching a loved one decline from dementia. But what if one day your loved one “woke up” from that debilitating disease and had a fleeting chance to be whole again? This is the premise of “June Again” starring Noni Hazlehurst.
We meet June in a nursing facility, privy to her memories of a cherished time many decades ago. Unable to process what’s happening around her, we watch as a speech therapist assesses her basic linguistic skills of identifying a common object. The frustration and embarrassment is obvious, but one day, June’s condition is in complete remission and she is lucid once again. Taking advantage of her situation, she escapes from her confines and steps back into her life that stopped 5 years ago.
She quickly learns that while her life was on hold, her adult children’s lives were not. The business she started and left in the capable hands of her daughter Ginny (Claudia Karvan) is failing. And her son’s life has seemingly spiraled out of control. The world she left behind is a different one and June dives in to right the sinking ship.
Winlove allows us to view June’s world through her eyes. We understand her confusion and her longing to take advantage of this indeterminate time she has been given. What we don’t predict is that the story morphs into a love story — a beautiful, heartbreaking love story.
For those of you who are questioning the premise of the story, I can personally attest to its validity. Winlove did his homework about types of dementia and cerebral vascular events. And as a former speech-language pathologist and daughter of a woman who experienced “terminal lucidity,” this fleeting time of seeing your mother become mom again can be deemed a curse or a gift which is exactly what is accentuated in the film.
Winlove’s keen understanding of relationships and life’s unfair hands that are dealt to each of us eloquently and even comedically unfolds in “June Again.” Hazlehurst is perfectly cast as she becomes June, an intelligent, insightful yet controlling woman with regrets in life who rides an internal emotional rollercoaster. Karvan and Hazlehurst deliver a mother-daughter performance that rings true, connecting us more deeply to the situation and the characters.
“June Again” finds all the right notes to tell a story of love in unexpected ways. It’s a surprising story that tugs on all your heartstrings, making us laugh and cry, and reminds us of the precious gifts that we have in our lives.
3 1/2 Stars
You can stream “June Again” on major digital platforms.