Photo Courtesy of SXSW.

SXSW23: ‘Parachute’ Review: A Quietly Compassionate Reflection on Self-Love

Brittany Snow’s directorial debut, Parachute, is a tour de force and a win for the representation of mental illness. Snow harnesses her artistic vision to craft a story of people who are hurting desperately and are in search of love. The characters in this story are so deeply human. Their struggles may be difficult to watch, but they are true to life. 

Parachute tells the story of Riley (Courtney Eaton), an unemployed 20-something just out of rehab. She also lives with an eating disorder. After her reentry into the real world, she meets Ethan (Thomas Mann). Together, they navigate love while confronting their own dysfunction.

The movie is a compassionate look at eating disorders and mental illness. Riley’s struggles are taken seriously. The fact that she is never shown to be the archetype of a “crazy girlfriend” is a credit to Snow’s artistic vision. Riley is wildly imperfect and makes terrible choices that affect those around her. However, she’s presented as someone with a lot of potential for growth. 

Relatedly, Eaton’s performance is what brings everything in Parachute together. She gives her all to make sure that this character is fully realized. Eaton plays her character with so much compassion. Her decisions are never excused. Instead, she has to face the inevitable consequences of her actions. The fact that this character is never shamed for being fully human, but is rather invited to better her own life, is a credit to Snow’s artistic vision to create a remarkable character. 

Ethan’s character is a compassionate meditation on the experience of children of alcoholics. His good intentions are shown to be incredibly damaging to him. He is another character who is never mocked for the choices he makes. Instead, he too must explore the consequences of putting the needs of others over his own. This adds depth to his character and allows him space to grow and change. Watching him reflect on how his enabling behaviour not only harms those around him but harms himself is endearing and an authentic representation of so many who love those living with addictions and mental health conditions. 

Parachute features a relationship between two people that is often hard to watch. Through the pain, though, there is beauty. This story could have gone in a completely different direction, which arguably would have made it a weaker story. This could have been yet another work of fiction that glorifies toxic and unhealthy relationships. Instead, the journey that these characters have to go on individually leads them to the best version of their respective selves. 

The surprise Dave Bautista role could have been incredibly out of place and cheesy. However, Bautista adds his signature brand of humour. These moments of levity are much needed in a story that handles such viscerally real experiences. Bautista’s chaotic Bryce also provides a venue for Riely to explore her artistic talents. His character is a blueprint for sleazy bar owners everywhere in fiction. He cares for his staff and genuinely wants his business to succeed. 

Parachute is a deeply moving portrait of the necessity of self-love. This story is aspirational at its core. Everyone deserves to go on such a journey and be granted enough grace to make new choices. This story will surely instil hope in anyone who can see themselves in any of these characters. This is the type of storytelling that is needed to confront the rampant stigma facing those living with addictions and mental illnesses. 

Parachute premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film and TV Festival

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