Heather Graham shows herself to have an incredibly positive outlook and ambitious mindset as the writer, director, and star of the film Chosen Family, which was screened Saturday night at the Fremont Theater as part of the 2024 SLO International Film Festival.

To manage all three very distinct and different skill sets can be daunting, if not an almost impossible achievement for even the most talented and experienced filmmaker. Unfortunately, the 88-minute movie falls short in numerous ways.

Graham stars as Ann, a single yoga teacher with a family deeply mired in codependency. Over time Ann has become the enabler to her parents and to her drug addicted sister. Ann’s friends provide the objective perspective and emotional support that Ann needs. After a long string of failed relationships, she finally meets someone who could be “the one.”

Problems ensue with her new boyfriend’s manipulative young daughter, and we see Ann come to the realization that she can’t “fix” anyone, except herself. Ultimately Ann releases herself from her role as enabler and chooses to pursue more satisfying and healthy relationships with her close-knit circle of friends.

Sadly, technical problems with the film, such as poor sound quality and speed, as well as jerky camera shots, are distracting. The most problematic issue, however, is with the story itself and the people being portrayed. Most of the characters (played by Julia Stiles, Andrea Savage, Thomas Lennon, Michael Gross, and John Brotherton) are all one-dimensional entities, with the viewer never quite finding anyone or anything to relate to.

All artists, in every field, experience failures before they find their stride and produce something of value. Graham is to be commended for putting her art in front of the world and receiving criticism of it. Viewing Chosen Family as a learning experience may well guide her to a better finished product.

:: Toni Pruett Bouman