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Helena From the Wedding could have been another forgettable indie-movie in which a bunch of characters are thrown together in a cabin to interact. The premise is a staple of under-talented would-be filmmakers without a budget. But in this case, the cast is so good that it elevates it beyond the usual. Helena is thoughtful and touching, a realistic portrayal of thirtysomethings looking out on the rest of their life and figuring out where they’ll spend it.

It stars an ensemble filled with character actors, actors who’s names you don’t know but who’s faces are instantly recognizable. Lee Tergeson and Melanie Lynskey play Alex and Alice, a newly married couple hosting a New Year’s Eve party weekend for their friends at a remote cabin. As their friends arrive things start to go awry and both, momentarily question the choice they’ve made in a mate. Alex is all but hypnotized by Helena (Community’s Gillian Jacobs), whom he once met at a wedding and failed to bed. Alice is worried about their future: will there be kids, will Alex ever find a steady job? Their friends are grappling with similar issues: one married couple fights endlessly, but can’t envision a world in which they aren’t together. Nick (Paul Fitzgerald) is newly separated, and newly dumped by his all too young girlfriend. Eve (Dagmara Dominczyk) thinks Steven (Corey Stoll) is cheating on her and Steven, he just seems like kind of a douche.

It works because it’s all handled with subtlety. The characters problems are the sort of issues that anyone in their thirties grapples with on practically a daily basis. But those problems never overwhelm the party that’s happening around them, there’s never that overly melodramatic moment where everyone sits down and cries together, or where a character does something so ridiculous that it sends everything into a tailspin. Helena From the Wedding’s strength is that the people in it seem real, they feel like someone you know or maybe someone you are yourself. Helena From the Wedding is smart, simple, and worth your time.

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