Jan 9, 2024
Dana Kippel, Grace Patterson, Jadelyn Breier
Writer, director, and star Dana Kippel delivers a trippy journey through a form of psychotherapy called shadow work in her film, Reflect.
As Summer, Kippel invites participants to a spiritual retreat as a challenge of sorts in which they can win money upon completing “reflective” obstacle courses.
Accompanying her on this journey to the desert (both spiritual and literal) are three friends (and one frenemy). Each woman brings her own past traumas with her, but none of them take their upcoming journey too seriously. From the clothes they wear to the things they pack, they don’t seem to understand the gravity of what they’re getting into.
Along the way, the characters meet some odd balls – odd balls that are part of a show, The Game of Life, in which the women are unaware participants.
It’s a strange set up for sure. By putting our characters on this journey, Kippel mines the sources of trauma in each woman’s life, some of those traumas more damaging than others.
As each woman undertakes the obstacle courses, they must face their anguish. It’s part of the game, part of the journey, but it makes you wonder what exactly becomes of a person who can’t handle the pain that plagues them.
Reflect excels at delivering a game cast of women (including Grace Patterson and Jadelyn Breier) who play off each other with the authentic dynamic of friends. There is genuine affection, but also a level of cattiness that keeps the quintet from truly letting each other in. Perhaps if they were able to do so, those life traumas would not be so overwhelming.
The film’s only weak element is when Kippel cuts away from the women to the gameshow framing device. Reflect would have worked just as well as a psychedelic journey into shadow work without the added element of voyeurism.
However, Kippel wisely keeps most of our attention on Summer and her friends, revealing their baggage little by little. It’s an interesting look at how our past infects our present and influences our future. Is there a way to move forward when the past pervades our every being? Maybe, maybe not. Kippel offers no easy answers, and the film is better for it.