Film Review: 'Rain Beau's End'
The good intentions behind this drama about a troubled family end up buried underneath sloppy execution and problematic characters.
Life for Hannah Driver (Janelle Snow) and her partner Jules Paradise (Amanda Powell) couldn't appear more perfect. Their relationship is stable, Hannah's law firm and campaign for mayor are both going smoothly, and Jules is running a successful coffee shop. There's only one thing missing: a child. With their attempts to conceive failing, Hannah and Jules decide to adopt a young boy named Beau--christened "Rainbeau" by the latter.
But not long after bringing Beau home, it becomes clear to the couple that there's something not right about their adoptive son. With his antisocial behavior segueing into violent outbursts, Hannah and Jules consult a psychiatrist who makes a surprising discovery: Beau has a rare genetic disorder known as Jacob's Syndrome. The disorder results in Beau having an extra Y chromosome, which is believed by many to predispose boys to aggression. While the diagnosis gives Hannah and Jules an "answer" for their son's actions, it doesn't make dealing with them any easier. As the years go on, Beau's behavior gets worse while Hannah and Jules' relationship begins to deteriorate. Will their picture-perfect life hold up under the strain?
Set in the late 1990s and spanning over 20 years, Rain Beau's End is a drama that sets out to cover some heavy topics. In addition to the primary conflict centering on medical misconceptions of the time, the film touches on 90's homophobia and the related stigma surrounding same-sex couples adopting. It's tragically ironic that two LGBT+ women--both of whom have presumed experience with being mislabeled--would end up doing the same thing to their son. But for all the noble intentions behind Rain Beau's End, the execution doesn't do them justice. Thanks to subpar character growth and other issues with the script, the message director Tracy Wren and company were going for becomes lost in the fray.
Rain Beau's End gets off to a slow start as it establishes Hannah and Jules' lives and relationship, which sets the tone for the story that comes after. While the story goes through some time jumps as Beau gets older, it never really causes any change in the narrative. At every age marker, Beau's behavior causes trouble for his adoptive mothers, and their relationship begins to crumble as a result. The story of an adoptive couple struggling to handle and connect with a troubled child could've made for an engaging character-driven drama...had the characters been written better. Despite being the title character, Beau is ultimately treated more like a plot device, with his unexplained aggressive behavior simply being used to create tension between his adoptive parents.
Being a deliberate choice, having Beau never appear onscreen makes sense, as it's used to symbolize how Hannah and Jules grow to see Beau more for his XYY syndrome than anything else. It could also be seen as a metaphor for how Beau's mothers grow to see him as a problem they wish would stop rather than a child they took in to love and care for. But practically, Beau's absence leaves you disconnected from his struggles and how they affect him. In fact, you never get any sense of Beau's mindset throughout his descent into delinquency. The possibility of Beau being on the Autism spectrum or having some other mental disorder is briefly brought up, only to be forgotten about for the rest of the film. For all the movie seems to care, Beau is just a destructive kid intent on ruining Hannah and Jules' lives. Beau's non-appearance also makes Hannah and Jules look rather neglectful, as it seems they only ever interact with their son when he's acting out.
Speaking of Hannah, her character proves to be the source of a good chunk of my frustrations with Rain Beau's End. Janelle Snow gives a fine performance as Hannah Driver, even managing to bring a softer side to the often rigid aspiring politician in a few scenes. But as a whole, Hannah comes across as horrifically cold-hearted and self-centered. Even in the beginning before Beau enters their lives, Hannah seems to value her career more than her relationship with Jules. Those opening scenes and others even give the impression that Hannah's sole reason for adopting Beau was to help her mayoral campaign. The way she handles Beau's problems doesn't deter those implications. While Jules at least tries to be a mother to Beau and help him through his issues, Hannah mostly ignores him and (in a few instances) exacerbates the problem. This makes it all the more frustrating when Hannah hypocritically accuses Jules of making her deal with their "satanic child" all the time, solidifying herself as a terrible mother and terrible partner. It takes until almost the end of the movie for Hannah to show anything resembling love for Beau, but by then, the damage is done and it feels like the movie is validating Hannah's aloof and uncompassionate parenting.
(SPOILER ALERT Hannah's unappealing personality makes the film ending with all of her and Jules' problems suddenly being resolved a bit disconcerting. It almost feels like the movie itself is arguing Beau was little more than a thorn in Hannah and Jules's perfect life, and now that he's gone, they can have their "happily ever after" in their dream cabin. Not to mention how this "happy ending" requires Hannah to lose out on being mayor, as if saying a woman can't have a thriving political career and a happy romantic/family life... Spoilers Over)
Opposite Snow is Amanda Powell as Jules Paradise, the more likable of the film's central couple. While Jules has her own selfish moments, she at least makes more of an effort to help Beau than Hannah does. She also gets a few cathartic moments of blasting Hannah for her chronic narcissism, and Powell gives just as good a performance as her co-star. The women work well together to give Hannah and Jules some romantic chemistry, though their characters' deficiencies make it hard to care if they patch up their relationship. The supporting cast gives temporary respite from Hannah and Jules' toxicity, as the couple's friends are overall much more likable. Sean Young is the best of the bunch as the snarky Nat Flickerman, with her quips (particularly her subtly calling Hannah out for how she treats Beau) being consistently entertaining. Halena Kays and Kirk E. Kelleykahn are similarly fun as Jules and Hannah's respective best friends Kris and Tim while Andrea Salloum gives a humorous edge to the impossibly unhelpful psychiatrist Dr. Phelps.
Steve Bayorgeon also makes an impression as Hannah's snide political opponent Mayor Haggerty. Bayorgeon gives the mayor's sleazy attitude a hint of charm, with his highlight moment being when he goes all Papa Wolf on Hannah after Beau inadvertently injures his son. As abrasive as he gets, Haggerty is more right than he realizes as he blasts Hannah for being a neglectful mother--an accusation the viewer can see has merit. We also get Ed Asner appearing as Hannah's estranged father Gunny, but his role is so limited and his character's relationship with Hannah is so underexplored that it's a wonder his scenes didn't get cut from the final product. I'm about half-convinced Asner was only brought on so the film could have another big name actor to attach to itself.
As alluded to earlier, Rain Beau's End has a consistent but uneventful "things keep getting worse" story progression. The cycle doesn't get broken until the third act when SPOILER ALERT Beau gets shipped off to the military and Jules goes abroad for charity work, leading to her being taken hostage and held for ransom. While the sudden swerve comes right out of nowhere and is a bit out-there for an otherwise grounded film, it combines with Beau's military status to make some sense when the gut-punch climax hits. Said climax is brought to life by Snow's emotional performance, giving Hannah a beautiful moment in the midst of an otherwise aggravating character arc. Spoilers Over
As well-intentioned as it is, Rain Beau's End drops the ball when it comes to juggling the various weighty topics it tries to cover. While the crew behind the film may have set out to educate those on XYY disorder and the misconceptions surrounding it, it never feels like the subject gets the coverage it deserves. This is largely a consequence of Beau never being the movie's true focal point, and his mothers being so unintentionally unsympathetic doesn't help. The cast gives it their all and there are even places where you can feel the message the film was going for. But all those good efforts are snuffed out by an ill-conceived script that leaves one of its main protagonists thoroughly unlikable. By shoving its title character into the background (literally and figuratively) in favor of his self-important guardians, Rain Beau's End loses sight of the message it was trying to convey.
Score: 3.5 out of 10 orange peels.