Charlene is an actor and screenwriter, but she's struggling in more ways than one (go figure).
Charlene’s brother, Dominick, died by suicide nine months ago, she didn’t see it coming. No one did. It wrecked her and now she’s attempting to salvage her fledgling acting and screenwriting career. But she has to face her grief, which has resulted in marital problems.
Charlene’s husband, Raul, has taken their two young kids to live with his sister “to give time for Charlene to grieve.” How is Charlene supposed to grieve when she’s also fulfilling her obligation to carry on her brother’s design business, care for her aging mother, Lorenna, and reconcile with Ayla, her pregnant sister-in-law who she’s avoiding?! No big deal. She’s fine.
(Lies. All lies. She’s the farthest thing from being fine).
From the beginning of the film, we see Charlene’s rituals, she works hard, listens to podcasts, checks her email constantly, goes on auditions, and is writing her Magnum Opus. She’s a woman in charge of her life, keeping it together with the best she can. Don’t mind that she eats her breakfast cereal or spaghetti dinner in the car as she drives. She’s a woman on the go with big dreams and big hustle.
With the direction of her friend, turned manager Veronica, Charlene goes to a go-see audition, exposing her insecurities. Charlene runs into former church members in which she has a history that she’s trying to avoid, revealing some underlying themes of the film: faith, doubt, judgment, grace, and grief.
Charlene drives all over town talking to herself, shoveling fro-yo in her mouth at stoplights, and carrying a colorful pile of index cards with her at all times. She scribbles down her ideas, plot points, and character descriptions whenever they pop into her head. This all contributes to the work Charlene is doing on her feature script, “The Things That Kill Us.” She’s been pitching it for months to the likes of many who don’t get her poetic concepts, use of voiceover, and dark, depressing subject matter “Why not write a rom-com to turn the funeral scene into a scavenger hunt.” All things she’s heard from executives.
But Charlene carries on trying to make sense of her life and rewrite (and sell) her feature film with ideas and notes that come from conversations with her husband Raul, manager Veronica, mother Lorenna, sister-in-law Ayla and actor friend Dino.
Did I mention that Charlene is very wound up, tighter than the gears in a watch? She’s about to burst and she knows it, little by little, but Charlene’s journey reveals how our bodies have a way of speaking to us and telling us what we need. She’s carrying a lot of burdens. And Charlene’s body needs to move, she needs to let it all out, she needs to dance.
Charlene must find a way to confront her personal demons and find herself once again…. amid her deep and ridiculously traumatic grief. But don’t worry, this isn’t a tragedy and Charlene’s no Shakespearean princess. The only way one can survive the painful loss of a loved one is by letting loose, popping a few edibles, and getting her groove on in a cemetery (yes, there is a dance routine in a cemetery. Don’t worry, think interpretive dance on an SNL sketch. Not Broadway, but therapeutic nonetheless)
Survival requires finding the ridiculous moments of humor any way you can, and Oh, they are there. It won’t take long for Charlene to find them or rather for the humor to find her. And they come in the form of an eclectic cast of characters, one notably being Dino who jumps on her crazy train and has a few ideas to pitch that just might help Charlene get to where she’s going. The question is, will she find a way to write and live her own story amid everything that is thrown at her? Chances are good, but it won’t be easy.