Santa Fe International Film Festival: ‘In Her Name’ Review

The mother of all father issues

While most folks might know Sarah Carter from her acting, including from the CW series, The Flash, she proves a real knack for writing and directing with In Her Name, her first feature-length film and a fine piece of work.

In Name, we follow estranged sisters Freya (Erin Hammond) and Fiona (Ciera Danielle), who have somehow gone a decade without seeing each other; at least until their formerly famous artist father Marv (a quiet but powerful Phillipe Caland) contends with a terminal diagnosis by filling his days with salon-style artists’ gatherings and prep work for his final show with some big-wig gallery.

Freya feels betrayed by Fiona, who got married, had a kid and moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota to live a traditional lifestyle. Fiona, meanwhile, feels that her sister’s judgmental take on the nuclear family thing is too harsh—which is tragic, we learn through flashbacks, because the siblings used to be close. Muddying the goings-on is the old family house, still in the sisters’ dead mother’s name, though technically left to Fiona in the will. It seems neither Freya nor Marv has bothered to pay property tax in some time, and Fiona wants to sell. What follows is a quick but important tour through inherited trauma, personal evolution, the importance (and frustrations) of family and the intensity of deciding what, if anything, to leave unsaid.

Shot in crisp black and white, Carter’s opus wends through anything and everything from sexual hang-ups, familial obligations and the destructive possibilities of pride. Hammond and Danielle suss out the rare type of chemistry that makes an onscreen sibling relationship feel believable and relatable. Hammond’s take on the second-generation artist desperately seeking her father’s approval hurts so good, and Danielle hits some notable heights in particular as her character’s development starts someplace akin to worried and uptight, then ultimately transforms into self-assured and confident.

Kudos go to Carter as well, not just for her writing and directing, which are both top-notch, but for crafting some of the most subtly delicious digs at the gallery system and what sort of artists it fosters ever captured on film. In Her Name is thus darkly funny at times—especially if you’ve spent any time in the art world—and its family dynamics hit so close to home it’s laughable in that verging-on-tears way.


+Beautifully shot and acted; well-written

-Performances take a sec to warm up

In Her Name

Directed by Carter

With Hammond, Danielle and Caland

Violet Crown, NR, 100 min.

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