Film Review: My Best Day

Very appealing character-driven study of a girl’s search for her father, small like the town where it’s set but fully loaded with piquant, summery charm.

Karen (Rachel Style), a receptionist at a Bangor, Pennsylvania appliance-repair shop, has always wondered about her dad (Hunt Block), absent early on in her life when he divorced her mother. When a man with his name calls in need of refrigerator repair, she coerces her lesbian pal Meagan (Ashlie Atkinson) to pretend to be a repairman and go with her to check him out. When they arrive at his house, he is gone, but his very young boyfriend Eugene (Harris Doran) is there, as well as Karen’s strange little half-brother Ray (Robert Salerno). Also suddenly appearing is her sister Stacy (Jo Armeniox), a bad girl who went off to live with Dad and who now has a severe gambling addiction, caught in the act of trying to abscond with the spare-change jar. It soon becomes apparent that none of them will make Karen’s re-bonding with her long-lost papa any easier.

With My Best Day, writer-director Erin Greenwell paints a lovely, quirky and very funny—although in an agreeably low-key way—portrait of small-town life. She presents the seemingly ideal little American burg, with pretty sylvan touches at its edges cushioning the stultification that can often come with the place. She’s populated it with a gallery of highly ingratiating, left-of-center types, all fiercely individual in their varying eccentricities, and all of them beautifully played by a pitch-perfect cast of unknowns. Their intertwined relationships and oddball encounters with one another, like a conversation between little Ray and big Meagan about their mutual dislike of “sweaty balls” (for different, or maybe the same, reasons), are wonderfully observant and authentic. Greenwell’s sure eye for composition mark her as a born filmmaker, with the aid of Terry Dame’s fetchingly tinny, gamelan-flavored music and Adam Benn’s wonderful cinematography which is alive to the found beauties of the cozy milieu and random moments like breezy car and bike rides, and penny rockets going off in driveways.

Style has a nice, affectingly natural presence as the girl around whom so much of this nuttiness swirls, at times recalling the young Laura Linney confronted by all the different wonders of Tales of the City. Salerno is a solemn little delight as a kid who hates wrestling but dreams of making the team to avoid being a perpetual bully target, which he is. Haley Murphy is Kathy, an endearingly solemn, tiny mate for him, for whom Eugene sets off on a funny search for meatless meat in this rural American town (Good luck!) because she is a vegetarian and Ray wants to impress her. The rest of the nicely populated cast adds considerable fun and flavor. As Meagan, Atkinson gives one of the most likeable, fully rounded portrayals of a lesbian on film. She’s an affable, divinely happy-go-lucky distaff Lothario, trying simultaneously to make good with her highly disapproving nurse girlfriend (Molly Lloyd) and with Heather (Kate McKinnon of “Saturday Night Live”), another lass she is crushing on. Greenwell has created a rural world with a preponderance of gay characters that nevertheless feels magically real, not cloyingly wish-fulfillment or noxiously politically correct in any way.