Ramona at Midlife – Bentonville Film Festival 2023 – Film Review

Tales of a midlife crisis on screen tend to be the preserve of men that are feeling nostalgic about their youth or harbouring aspirations to be a rockstar, possess a Porsche or embark on a risky endeavour to re-create that zest for life. It is, therefore, rare for a woman’s midlife crisis to be depicted positively within films. The titular Ramona seems to be experiencing such longing for change during her midlife and to reclaim the woman that she used to be, notably a published author, in her life before children. Ramona at Midlife provides that concise snapshot at 75 minutes, traversing Ramona’s daily routines as she seeks to right those perceived wrongs in a bid to re-discover her wants and needs.

Fortunately, Ramona’s musings are quite amusing and Yvonne Woods portrays her in an endearing, sympathetic light particularly as she is surrounded by irritating acquaintances in the playground. There is the Instagrammer, Sage, following the latest trends on social media and other mothers providing a tenuous social circle, all connected by their respective children. Yet, Ramona desires to be part of her former world that she perceives to be successful and before her separation. Brooke Berman’s direction therefore feels akin to a lengthy stand up comedian sketch with Ramona’s younger daughter, Kiki, even delivering amusing, if somewhat precocious lines, on their daily commute. Ramona’s unintended utterance that she wishes to have her former life is immediately remarked upon by her young daughter, in an engaging dynamic between the two of them.

Indeed, Ramona’s predicament will resonate with many mothers who have felt that need to justify their career gap whilst they were raising children. There seems to be that judgement from society as women are often forced to make a choice between career building or childrearing. This may be a suitable compromise for some women but Ramona at Midlife clearly distinguishes between different groups of women who have high-flying careers compared to those operating within a local microcosm.

Yvonne Woods as Ramona with friends in Ramona at Midlife
Yvonne Woods as Ramona with friends in Ramona at Midlife

Ramona, however, straddles both worlds and writes journal entries to keep her creativity flowing. The film, therefore, highlights that women should be permitted to embrace their multiple interests without being pigeonholed. Despite such message, being bluntly delivered, with pacing issues, and some over the top caricatures, the film is overall an amusing perspective of attempts to carve a life in addition to motherhood. Ramona is indeed that flawed heroine who may not have a clear navigation mapped out for her life and therefore provides a humble, realistic viewpoint.

This directorial debut also touches upon some of the challenges that writers may face to provide that authentic voice and to prove that their own work is original when faced with plagiarism issues, when Ramona’s life becomes another creative’s source material. Woods’ Ramona effortlessly carries the film throughout the fluctuations in her love life and career prospects.

Ramona at Midlife offers an amusing but heartfelt viewpoint of women that may be ignored after raising children as they are no longer visible. The film does tackle that notion of having it all but emphasises that such decisions are a matter of personal choice without the pressure. Berman explores a narrative arc for Ramona to discover the woman she once was and to feel confident to follow her own path despite the influences from her external circles. Friendships are important to Ramona. Still, the film emphasises the necessity for soul searching to discover that inner peace and balance to create a life to achieve that personal fulfilment of your own making.

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