Austin Film Festival 2022: SAM & KATE

If one were to look upon the poster for this film, it would be easy to assume that Sam & Kate tells a lengthy story of two lovers/spouses through the course of their relationship. How can anyone not expect that? Casting Dustin Hoffman, Sissy Spacek, Hoffman’s son Jake, and Spacek’s daughter Schuyler should easily deceive anyone, as these children look so much like their parents! I digress a little, but that is exactly what I initially expected before actually reading a brief synopsis. That said, I am actually glad that writer/director Darren Le Gallo did not deliver this type of story, but does offer something very charming and affecting.

The headliner film on the second night of the Austin Film Festival was actually a world premiere, and had the director and the stars present to do a lovely Q & A afterward. According to them, the casting of real life parents and children was simply a case of serendipity. All of the cards just fell into the right places, and I believe that the movie benefits from it. The chemisty between Jake and Dustin, and between Sissy and Schuyler is absolutely perfect.

Now some people might call this cheating, but I feel that the movie would not completely work without the necessary romantic chemistry between Jake Hoffman and Schuyler Fisk, along with the chemistry between Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek. So, there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to the movie Sam & Kate, a lovely and heartfelt movie about finding love and common ground when dealing with elderly parents who are struggling with their golden years.

Sam (Jake), a struggling artist, comes back home to care for his retired and ailing father Bill (Dustin), a feisty, but lonely widower who could use vitality and excitement in his life. In the same town, former singer/musician Kate (Schuyler Fisk), after a major tragedy, has abandoned her art, and has resigned herself to a simple life of running a bookstore, while periodically attending to her senior mother Tina (Spacek), a sweet and lonely lady who copes with her loneliness and aging by hoarding. When the four people cross paths, romance sparks between the children, but the same also happens between the two parents. However, not all as perfect in these relationships, as everyone’s personal issues causes conflicts and tension between both pairings and between the children and their parents.

As a directer Darren Le Gallo takes a simple enough approach, and the works out just fine. There really is no need to get too fanciful with the presentation, and just simply allow the solid writing and the talent of the cast members work their magic. The screenplay and story presents very relatable problems and issues to people who have suffered tragedy, and those who have had to care for their aging parents. Le Gallo does a great job of mixing the natural comedy of these scenarios, along with the more dramatic side of things. On the romantic end of it, the actors perform beautifully and organically.

It should probably go without saying that both Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek perform superbly and seemingly effortlessly. But, this movie also allows their respective children to show that they have some palpable talents of their own. At the end of it all, Sam & Kate proves to be an irresistably lovable movie, but one that doesn’t necessarily demand to be watched on the big screen. That said; I still highly recommend the movie, but as one that can be well enjoyed in the intimacy of one’s home.

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