Abby Ableman reads and vacuums at the same time, fixes up hole-in-the-wall apartments in Manhattan, and spends inordinate amounts of time in cycling classes, amidst the aimless, though healthy-minded chatter of other soccer moms. Most importantly, Abby violently, helplessly curses at her son when he hits her in the head with a baseball, causing her first concussion- a bloody mess, which starts off a spiraling breakdown of her marriage and family life, her energy punch-redirected into fulfilling her suppressed appetite for sensual exploration. The extent of her passion, pre-prostitution, can be summed up in the following piece of dialogue, exchanged after the ball incident, when Abby’s hair and face are streaked with congealed blood:
Divorce lawyer wife Kate to stay-at-home-cycling-mom Abby: “Don’t you think you were a bit hard on the kids?”
Abby to Kate: “I’m going to start working again. I mean it.”
It’s worth asking what is work to the one who chooses what they will do every day, without a care for the price their hours are worth? Choices, choices. Abby has them. She chooses to have sex with women who pay her, as she remodels a fixer-upper property…between the mom stuff and the married friends dinner dates, the spinning classes and advanced yoga, she re-values her time, when we meet her from this refreshed perspective.
Between our vision of Abby vacuuming, cycling, bleeding, sweating, and bored, the affairs, which come on carefully, almost innocently, and somewhat in the way psychologists meet new patients, seem interesting at best- a hobby, temporary…for health. When things start getting darker, when relationships begin to scratch at the surface of her protective layer, it becomes clear that Abby has chosen to lie, through infidelity, to find herself: to gauge the extent of get innate passion, even at the cost of the life she’s built and the children she’s made. Once Kate finds her out, she flounders. Late to one too many after school pick-ups and fiery against the dullness of Kate’s complacence, Abby shines through the holes, brilliant in all she’s experienced, but the image of pain to her spouse.
Should she have talked it out with her before taking amorous appointments? What a logical thought, the thought of someone who can’t or won’t imagine being stuck between the beige walls of cohabitation. Communication itself can get boring. Does talking bring on a fit of passion? Does couple’s therapy lead to endearment? Or is it so that only a spark will lead to flames, and it can’t be found on solemn grounds? All that’s judgmental aside, Abby’s dramatic fall makes for an insightful, chilly look into independent drama’s favorite topic: the mundane + the family + the sin = the flame, a moral Phoenix rising quietly. ‘Concussion’ is one of the best films of 2013 because it trampled the lead without pinning her, explored her circumstances unflinchingly without a judge to follow.