Brian Savelson’s small-scaled domestic drama In Our Nature evokes a specific, fairly common experience: when two young lovers expose a still-blossoming relationship to their relatives’ stifling attention. Zach Gilford and Jena Malone play a Brooklyn couple who drive upstate to spend a weekend in his family’s country house, and discover after they arrive that Gilford’s gruff father John Slattery was planning to spend the weekend there with his girlfriend, Gabrielle Union. Gilford and Slattery don’t get along; Gilford’s a vegan and an indie-rock musician, while Slattery’s an opera-loving lawyer. But the bigger issue is that their immediate impulse to flee each other annoys their dates, who worry that the guys will never fully let them in.
In Our Nature lumbers a lot, especially early on, as Savelson introduces the cast and has Gilford and Slattery keep coming up with weak excuses to stall the movie’s premise from kicking in. The story is slow-paced and steeped in clichés, with the leads filling the space between their heavier conversations with inanities like, “It feels so good to get out of the city,” and, “Why can’t he be more like his sister?” And the differences between these people—hippie vs. materialist, wealthy-but-chilly upbringing vs. poor-but-happy, and so on—feel like they were checked off of a screenwriters’ list of contrasting character traits. (And not very far down that list, either.)
What partially redeems In Our Nature—while making it more frustrating—is that Gilford and Slattery are so believable as a father and son who’ve been uncomfortable around each other for so long that they’ve almost forgotten why. Give Savelson credit: He clearly understands these two men, and reveals a lot about their dynamic when he shows Slattery automatically assuming his son is more of a slacker than he actually is, while Gilford apes a lot of his dad’s cynicism without realizing he’s doing it. The male characters really do know each other better than they know their girlfriends. But the same seems to be true of this movie, which gives Malone and Union only a few good moments, and largely in isolation from what’s going on with Gilford and Slattery. And since this is a four-character piece, that makes In Our Nature feel out of balance.