EIFF 2016: Sticky Notes Review

Rose Leslie's aspiring dancer has to return home to look after her unconventional father Ray Liotta takes ill.

Amanda Sharp’s debut Sticky Notes is a solidly made and well-acted indie drama that’s hampered by its reliance on cliches and a clunky narrative device that isn’t as clever or well-crafted as it needs to be.

Rose Leslie stars as Athena, a dancer with all the traits of a typical American indie damaged protagonist: she drinks too much, takes drugs and indulges in copious amounts of casual sex. The source of all of this self-destructive behaviour appears to be her dad Jack (Ray Liotta), an unconventional father at best who now, thanks to a lung cancer diagnosis, wants to make amends.

The relationship between Athena and Jack at the centre of the film is an interesting one even if it’s relatively clichéd. As soon as Athena arrives in Florida, she slips back into childlike ways while at the same time acting as a parent to her father whose juvenile behaviour predates his illness. The film explores childhood memories and how those memories can evolve over time as perspectives change.

The way it delves into this however is the film’s biggest drawback. There are multiple scenes involving another young girl that seemingly mirror Athena’s childhood in a way that allows her to step back and reassess things, but these scenes are often clunky and confusing. It takes a leaden coda, that explains far too much, to make sense of it and even then, numerous scenes don’t add up at all.

If this contrived turn in the plot lets the script down, Leslie and Liotta keep the film afloat with a pair of strong performances. In Leslie’s meatiest role to date, the erstwhile Game of Thrones star shoulders the bulk of the movie and makes the more clichéd aspects of the character believable. Liotta’s performance is his best in years, a stark reminder of what he’s capable of when given something to dig his teeth into. It’s a character we’ve seen before – the charming but infuriating father figure – but Liotta finds pathos and humour in the role.

Sticky Notes is ultimately a disappointment given the promise of its early scenes but Leslie and Liotta deliver performances that make the film worth seeing, while Sharp clearly has talent even if this film didn’t entirely work out.