Directed by Justin Lerner
“The Automatic Hate” is one of those suspenseful family dramas that you expect something emblematic and even predictable to come out of it, but all of a sudden the story switches to something more reinvigorating, even if sporadically hypocrite.
Joseph Cross and Adelaide Clemens competently play two cousins who had never met before and become physically attracted to each other while they try to reunite their fathers. Davies Green (Cross) is a quiet Bostonian chef who lives deeply concerned with the deplorable emotional state of his dancer girlfriend, Cassie (Deborah Ann Woll), after an involuntary abortion. Patient but exhausted, he gives signs of needing some relaxed time to himself, to free his mind from the traumatic wound caused by the happening. A certain night at the bar he regularly attends, he spots a young woman smiling and waving at him. Intrigued and with the certainty she's a complete stranger, he walks toward her, but she runs through the doorway, leaving him thinking what was that all about. On the following day, the same girl buzzes at his door, awkwardly introducing herself as Alexis Green (Clemens). Before disclosing that their fathers are brothers, she starts crying from the excitement, asking for a hug and saying she’s not crazy. This particular overacted scene gives us a notion of how unstable Alexis is. The situation feels even weirder because Davies says his father, Ronald (Richard Schiff), a respected psychologist, has no siblings. The girl leaves the place, not without provoking jealousy in Cassie and dropping a business card in the front of the house.
Ruminating on the matter, Davies finds a clue in one of his mother’s old paintings and gets the confirmation that his father has a brother named Josh (Ricky Jay). After approaching the seductive Alexis, he meets her other two sisters, and the four spend a good time at a local bar - drinking, laughing and misbehaving.
As they attempt to find answers for what could possibly have separated the two brothers for so many years, Davies and Alexis don’t resist the temptation of being alone in a cabin in the middle of the woods and become physically involved.
Davies eventually gets the family reunited for his grandfather’s funeral, the perfect moment for the director and co-writer, Justin Lerner (“Girlfriend”), to elevate the dramatic side of the story by spicing it up with frontal provocations and hostile attitudes (Clemens is particularly great at this point).
Mr. Lerner's sophomore feature combines the suspense, coming from unpredictable behaviors between ‘strangers’ and undisclosed past secrets, with the typical turmoil that erupts from dysfunctional families, and still appends an out-of-bounds affair to the tempestuous feast.
In addition, he deliberately surrounds a mystery that is well fed by the ingratiating performances. The result is a minor indie film that, swinging between entertaining and inessential, feels as dodgier as mutable.