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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 07.11.13] comedy drama

In Brea Grant's Best Friends Forever, the apocalypse is a distant threat, something that happens on the edges of Harriet and Reba's last adventure together, a road trip from LA to Texas to deliver Harriet (Grant) to her new life as a grad student. The trip starts off well enough but when Reba (Vera Miao), a party girl with a soft spot for artist types, makes buddy buddy with a trio of hipsters who then proceed to, in a comedy of errors, steal Harriet's car, the road trip takes a turn for the dark.

The concept for Best Friends Forever, which Grant directed, stars in and co-wrote with co-star Miao, is promising: the woes of two girlfriends who stumble on difficult times while in the background the world goes to shit. It provides ample opportunity for an exploration of female friendship not to mention some interesting options for sticky situations with other travellers. Sadly, the movie hardly touches on either.

Sure, there's lots of back and forth conversation between Vera and Harriet but it's all superficial and though there are occasional hints that the pair is treading lightly because of deep rooted issues, the conversations feel vacant of emotion. At one point, Reba discovers that Harriet is keeping a secret from her and just when it seems like the friends are finally going to have an important conversation, the story sidetracks it and the pair end up drinking into the night and playing at super heroines. At times, it doesn't even feel like the women are best friends but rather acquaintances who happen to be travelling together. Where's the camaraderie? The emotion of deep rooted friendship and a shared life? It's suggested that the two have been best friends for years but for the most part, that friendship doesn't come across on screen.

Best Friends Forever does eventually get there. The movie vastly improves when the women arrive in Texas and are forced to reveal and deal with their secrets. For a few moments there's a real sense of friendship and of the complex history they share but that moment too is fleeting and just when it seems that Harriet and Reba are finally on track, they're separated and quite frankly, the movie is more interesting when they're forced to deal with their individual troubles alone.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Best Friends Forever is that the impending doom never feels particularly threatening. We see the bomb go off early on but the danger always seems distant. Even when the women encounter some less than savoury characters, there's never a feeling that either Harriet or Reba are in above their heads. Strangely enough, that criticism is also the major strength of Best Friends Forever, the fact that the women never feel like victims. They may end up in situations where they are victimized but they never give up and they certainly don't wait for men to rescue them.

Though it never quite lives up to its potential, Grant's directorial debut does show promise in both storytelling and direction. There are a number of fantastic touches that suggest the apocalypse is near, some genuinely funny moments peppered throughout and great use of music. Though it lacks an emotional connection, both Grant and Miao are fun to watch and Best Friends Forever is enjoyable and a movie that feels like a throwback to indie movies of the early 90s.

Best Friends Forever is now available on VOD.

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