Messy Tale Of Love & Friendship Is Elevated By Its Two Leads

Messy Tale Of Love & Friendship Is Elevated By Its Two Leads

While some aspects might feel slight, Tahara is an engrossing coming-of-age tale bolstered by its distinctive visual style and well-matched leads.

In many ways, Olivia Peace’s film Tahara is an ambitious project. It seeks to explore themes of sexuality, friendship, and death within its remarkably short runtime. Working off of an original script by Jess Zeidman, Peace dives headfirst into these murky areas and comes up with a movie that leaves no easy answers in its wake — and is all the more intriguing for it. Comparisons to the similarly-themed Shiva Baby are inevitable, but Tahara manages to be something very different. While some aspects might feel slight, Tahara is an engrossing coming-of-age tale bolstered by its distinctive visual style and well-matched leads.

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Following the death of a fellow classmate, best friends Carrie (Madeleine Grey DeFreece) and Hannah (Rachel Sennott) find themselves attending both her funeral and a “teen talk-back” at their local synagogue. The talk-back is aimed at helping the various teens process their supposed grief, but Hannah is more preoccupied with getting the attention of Tristan (Daniel Taveras), her longtime crush. In a moment of stunning ignorance, Hannah gets Carrie to kiss her to assess her skills. For Hannah, it’s a passing moment, but for Carrie, it leads to a surprising revelation that colors the rest of the agonizingly awkward talk-back.

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Madeline Grey DeFreece in Tahara

Madeline Grey DeFreece in Tahara

Tahara takes place entirely in the synagogue, which would normally run the risk of making a film feel too stagnant. Early on, though, Peace works against this by employing unique visual tricks. From weaving in animation to expanding the boxy aspect ratio during Carrie’s moments of self-discovery, Peace finds creative ways to really show what the girls are thinking and feeling. Carrie gets the most internal exploration of the two leads in Tahara, which can be a bit frustrating for those who might wish to understand Hannah better. However, as Carrie is the de facto protagonist here, it makes sense that her journey would take center stage above all else.

DeFreece is more than up to the challenge of shouldering Carrie’s complicated emotions throughout Tahara. From her hopeful excitement over realizing she has feelings for Hannah to her unease as she actually learns what Hannah herself feels, DeFreece portrays Carrie’s arc with an authenticity and earnestness that elevates Zeidman’s script. As the more polarizing Hannah, Sennott doesn’t back down from the messier aspects of her character; in fact, she slips into her role with ease. Sennott and DeFreece have a solid rapport together, though the friendship element of Carrie and Hannah’s relationship feels underdeveloped. Peace has a clever way of showing the ease with which they communicate in an early scene, hinting at a long history, but there still seems to be something missing in their bond.

Rachel Sennott and Madeline Grey DeFreece in Tahara

Rachel Sennott and Madeline Grey DeFreece in Tahara

Underneath its story of queer discovery and complicated friendships, Tahara also touches upon loss through the plot involving the deceased classmate. As none of the characters involved were particularly close with the girl, the audience only learns a handful of details about her. There are moments in Tahara that suggest Hannah could’ve had an impact on her passing, but the movie never fully delves into it. With such a short runtime, that’s understandable, but considering the nature of the classmate’s death (which was by suicide), Tahara could’ve perhaps grappled with this for a bit longer. It would’ve added more depth to the story overall.

Still, for what it sets out to do, Tahara succeeds. It captures the awkward nuances of queer self-discovery and doesn’t shy away from the thorny issues of a friendship that is perhaps more damaging than good. DeFreece and Sennott fit into their roles perfectly, while the rest of the supporting cast help to make Tahara feel lived-in. It is far from a typical coming of age movie, but that is what makes it such an intriguing snapshot. Audiences looking for a fresh filmmaking voice would be smart to listen to what Peace (and Zeidman, for that matter) have to say.

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Tahara released in theaters on Friday, June 10. The film is 77 minutes long and is unrated.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5 (Good)

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About The Author

Rachel Labonte
(3439 Articles Published)

Rachel LaBonte is one of Screen Rant’s core news editors, as well as a feature and movie review writer. A graduate of Emerson College, she majored in Media Arts Production while specializing in screenwriting. She’s been a writer ever since high school when she realized she was rather good at it and joined as many entertainment news clubs as she could while in school. Most notably, she wrote for Emerson’s website Emertainment Monthly, and one of her film reviews won an Evvy (Emerson’s student awards) for Best Review. Her deep love of movies led to her working at a movie theater for five years, which she loved despite the angry customers. An avid reader who constantly buys books before reading the ones she already owns, Rachel is a huge fan of superheroes (especially of the Marvel variety) and wizards and will likely never be able to catch up on all the movies/TV shows she longs to watch.

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