Every working-class city likely has a story like 21 Below’s. The eldest daughter in a troubled family sees no prospects in town and gets out of Dodge asap. But the rest of the fam has stayed put and dug themselves deeper ditches, and the woman feels guilty for “abandoning” her sisters—especially when the youngest is having her third baby at age 21. First-time filmmaker Samantha Buck follows 28-year-old Sharon as she and her husband temporarily return to her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., to play counselors to and peacekeepers among her stressed relatives. Her mother, Peggy, can’t stand that her baby, Karen, has gotten knocked up by the unemployed, drug-dealing Courtney—but she pays their mortgage anyway, because Karen’s too busy caring for her critically ill second child to work. Sharon is pregnant, too, but Karen’s drama eclipses the fact that her sister is more happily expecting and springloads every family interaction. There’s nothing particularly unique about 21 Below’s dysfunction, but Buck captures enough raw, honest moments to make you sympathize with Sharon’s sentiment about her former home: “It makes me want to never come back.”
At 9 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre; also on Saturday, June 20, at 6:15 p.m. at Discovery HD Theater.