Hollywood is in a space where creators are trying to figure out how to chronicle experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. It ranges from the dystopian, sci-fi feel of Songbird to the relationship strife of Together and the many movies of that ilk. Rarely does one think to laugh, considering the circumstances around a global event that we are all still within. The beginning of Stop and Go mirrors a lot of our pre-pandemic dream and aspirational settings. Discussions centering on making 2020 “your year” and finally writing that novel or asking out that special someone. But often, you make plans, and the universe laughs at them before the ink dries on the paper.
The sisters Jamie (Whitney Call) and Blake (Mallory Everton) celebrate Jamie’s 30th birthday. Blake is currently on a high, fresh off a first date, and Jamie is excited about the year ahead. Just like a ton of bricks, the pandemic reaches its apex, confining them to their homes. But alas, they soon have a common goal. Their Nana (Anne Sward Hansen) is in a nursing home in Washington where the conditions are less than ideal to fight off a pandemic. Not to mention, there’s staff in disarray and an older man roaming the halls looking for a pandemic buddy. At that point, both Jamie and Blake choose to road trip from Albuquerque to Washington on a grandma rescue mission.
Call and Everton’s portrayal of tight-knit sisters brings the charm out in this 80-minute film that mainly centers around their characters in a car. Having worked on a comedy sketch series, ‘Studio C‘ together, most of their dialogue is born out of the improv spirit as the duo wrote Stop and Go. They have a chemistry that carries through the jokes and spots that may run a little long in points. It’s not all about pit stops, driving, and trying your damnest not to get infected. Stop and Go has some subplots that run throughout to give it some structure.
Blake tries to revive a spark between her potential love interest Scott (Noah Kershisnik) after a few weeks of static. What happens is some awkward texts and an investigation if he’s the guy for her. Jamie is a fourth-grade teacher who tasks leaving the classroom mice with one of her students named Jacob (Baylee Thornock), who is a little too comfortable overstepping boundaries. There’s a running gag of his mother, Mr. Harper (Jessica Drolet), going to extremes on both spectrums through phone calls. Jamie and Blake’s sister Erin (Julia Jolley) is the complete anthesis of the safety they try to exert. She is literally on a cruise line with her husband because the prices were so low.
Directors Everton and Stephen Meek know what Stop and Go‘s strength is and lean into it considerably. The film is present to stress the friendship and silliness of two sisters trying to make the best out of an unpleasant situation. Brief moments of clarity present themselves, but the composite sketch pad that is this movie’s canvas wants to be a getaway. A rest stop on a highway of non-stop alerts and doom and gloom.
Watching Stop and Go feels like you are looking through old home videos and slightly frayed Polaroids of a forgotten time. It even feels weird to refer to a phenomenon that hit its peak just last year as a past event. The pandemic rages on in all parts of the world, but things have opened up again. A reference to not trying to touch an exposed gas station nozzle feels familiar, even so now, but also distant. While some jokes and schemes may feel all over the place, the film is going to try to get you to laugh in the face of danger.
Photo Credit: Decal