Sundance Review: Concussion

Writer/Director Stacie Passon’s first feature film Concussion is a thoughtful and refreshing look at relationships, family and personal fulfillment in our modern world. Abby is a lesbian, wife (married to a woman) and mother of two small children living in suburbia. After being hit in the head by her son’s baseball, she becomes acutely aware that she wants more in her life; more passion, more excitement, more connection.

This restlessness and desire for sexual connection and satisfaction leads her to hire a female prostitute – and not a great one. The experience makes her feel awkward and creeped out. But then she is introduced to a “higher-class” prostitute who through intimacy makes her feel sexy and alive.  One thing leads to another and she enters the world of prostitution herself. She begins to lead a double life. Seeing her clients in a NYC loft (which she is converting as a side project and is eventually meant to be sold), she now has a place and world of her own where she is in charge and she makes the rules.

All her clients are women and each is unique and different. Young women, older, married, experienced and inexperienced. We observe their interactions, what they are bringing in with them, and how Abby adapts and changes to fulfill their needs. In a way she befriends and helps these women and learns from them as well. We see Abby come alive. We witness her growth and change. She is empowered by her sexuality and by the city itself. Scenes of Abby’s suburban life (cleaning the house, going to the gym, gossiping with the other moms, dinner with the family) are juxtaposed with scenes of her in bed with her clients. The sex scenes are numerous and steamy, but are real and sensual, not exploitative.

Concussion could easily have come off as contrived, but it felt so honest, real and authentic. This is due to Passon’s script and direction and the wonderful performance by Robin Weigert as Abby (best known as Calamity Jane on Deadwood). She perfectly embodies Abby’s transformation physically and mentally in an endearing, real and beautiful way. What is refreshing about the film is that it isn’t about being a lesbian or being in a lesbian marriage – those are just the facts. This woman is like any other – gay or straight – dealing with and trying to understand her place in the world, relationships, and loss of passion and excitement.