Handling the death of a loved one is tricky. However, when one member of the family is cognitively disabled, the process requires extra care. Throughout Take Me Home, a short playing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, the two sisters seem very much at odds. However, with time and effort, each sister begins to find the common ground that brings them together. Directed by Liz Sargent, Take Me Home reminds us that patience and love can help us through the most difficult times in life.
When their mother dies, Anna (Anna Sargent) and Emily (Jeena Yi) find themselves working through the disorganization. Anna struggles with her cognitive abilities, which make communication and information processing difficult. Emily puts her life on hold, but begins tearing into the family boxes to find Anna’s paperwork. Doing so upsets Anna, but Emily needs to find the paperwork to care for her sister. The two begin to fight, leading to emotional reactions in both directions.
Liz Sargent captures the difficulties that may arise from these relationships. It’s also apparent how personal this struggle must be, given that Anna is her sister. The young actress was born with conditions that led to some cognitive impairment, yet Liz and Anna collaborate to craft this film. As Liz layers the film with complex emotional beats, Anna delivers a stellar performance. The two clearly work well together, and as Liz develops her sister’s character, she portrays the frustrations of cognitive disabilities with beautiful honesty.
Liz’s collaborations do not stop there, as it’s clear that she imparted much her personal experience to Ms. Yi. In what could be seen as a semi-autobiographical work from the director, Yi must bring a sisterly chemistry to life. She succeeds on that front, and captures walks the difficult tightrope between melodrama and believable emotional frustration. She happens to keep herself on the right side of the performance.
Sargent’s direction helps capture some beautifully framed sequences, but the details in the screenplay expertly bring out the gold. Throughout the short, there are set-ups and payoffs, which could be difficult in a short runtime. Yet Sargent tells the story so efficiently, that by the time we hit the emotional climax of the film, we simply need to watch the emotion rise. There’s no need for explanations, because she’s effectively communicated the plot mechanics. This is a rare talent, and shows her vision goes beyond relying on emotion. In fact, Sargent can keep the narrative flowing, while also delivering heart. It’s an important skillset as she moves towards directing features. If Take Me Home is any indication, she’s poised to break out as a dramatic storyteller.