Let Liv, directed by Erica Rose, is a story of familial separation, intergenerational addiction and relational reconciliation. The film will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11th. Set primarily around an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting in New York, the film refuses to settle for an easy interpretation of alcoholism or champion a simple fix for substance abuse. Indeed, the film suggests that the methods are as imperfect as the people participating in them – perhaps even more so.
The film opens on Liv (Olivia Levine) and Marty (Rosaline Elbay) as they are sitting smoking on a step. They are on their fifth date which, to Liv’s bewilderment, will be attending an AA meeting together. Liv has a hand tremor, she is in a bad way, she is unable to have sex with Marty without drinking. Though the film doesn’t reveal too much more than this, the implication is that Liv cannot live day-to-day without the numbness and inebriation of alcohol. As they arrive at the AA meeting, Liv, pedestalizing herself, criticizes the other people in the room: their clothes, their demeanor, their looks. She is cynical towards the steps, the slogans, the moral code. She’s in self-denial: she believes she’s got a handle on life in a way these other people haven’t. That is until she sees her mother, Judy (Christine Taylor), from across the room.
Let Liv confronts intergenerational alcoholism, focusing on a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. Though the film opens with the romantic relationship between Liv and Marty, this dynamic very quickly fades into the background. The film is about the healing of the past. A short monologue aside, Marty’s character only helps to facilitate the tensions between Liv and Judy—she is a symbol of the life that Liv is trying to build in the aftermath of the relational breakdown with her mother.
The key situations in the film feel a little too contrived to be emotionally impactful and removes you from the more sensitive aspects of the film – at the times when you should be leaning in closer. But there are some well-crafted conversations—particularly towards the end of the film—that drive home a tenderness and woundedness.
The film does have some strong emotional moments, particularly when the different characters are sharing their experiences with alcoholism and its triggers: professional and sporting pressure, family struggles, and social anxiety. Additionally, Levine does a good job of remaining expressive and likable while being cynical and unfiltered. The film lands in a fairly conventional manner, stressing the need to be real and honest versions of ourselves: to fail, to fall, and to learn. The parting message is slightly underwhelming, not offering a groundbreaking new perspective, but it is an understandable and inoffensive conclusion.
Let Liv is a film that understands what it is to be broken; it is a film that understands the process of repairing yourself, slowly and non-linearly. The film addresses the subject matter with maturity, acknowledging the positive and negative aspects of different methods of thinking. The filmmaking doesn’t latch onto easy solutions, but is capable of sitting patiently with difficult and complicated conversations.