‘Sam Now’ is a coming of age film about mental health, commitment, and familial relationships

Sam Now

Toronto/CMEDIA: Directed, Produced by, and Cinematography by Reed Harkness, produced and edited by Jason Reid, HotDocs 2022 film ‘Sam Now’ was showcased on May 5 during the international premiere of the Canadian International Documentary Festival.

Sam Now was filmed for over 25 years in Washington, Oregon, and California with Post-Production in Washington and Oregon.

Sam Now is a gripping family story told over a lifetime by Reed Harkness capturing the story of his half-brother, Sam Harkness, who struggles with the sudden disappearance of his mother Jois during the most formative years of his life which shocks Sam Harkness and his Seattle family and leaves them heartbroken.

Though Jois and her husband Randy Harkness were divorced, Sam had somehow adapted to this situation since he could often visit his mother. But his life totally revolved around his Dad, his half-brother Reed and his younger brother Jared. The love and devotion that the brothers got from Jois were convincingly portrayed and the Seatle family could not comprehend the reason for her sudden disappearance. When their hopes of her returning soon did not materialize they all were devastated but remained silent.

But Jared and Sam were much affected which was evident in Jared’s difficulty in graduating from his school. Sam, the center of the whole story felt miserable and lonely. Though he spent much of his younger years in running and his sports, the viewers feel that this was an outlet for him to release his underlying emotional traumatic depression. Ultimately Reed finds his dad’s camera and starts filming his half-brother right from when Sam was aged 5 and consists of home videos, Super 8 films, and modern-day HD videos told over a lifetime.

More than a decade later, Reed and his half-brother get some clues about their Mom’s whereabouts and head out on a West Coast road trip to try and find her. After a long strenuous journey, they eventually find her with a partner. Even though Sam spends a few days with his Mom, when he learns from his mom that desired to be with her partner and she had no other choice but to break all bonds with her family, Sam felt relieved that at least he knows the truth but was heart-broken that she never once thought of her family or called them. Sam’s dad Randy did not remarry but was totally devoted to his children and his Mom Doris.

As the narrative unfolds, Sam is portrayed as coming of age and he tries to break free from a singular traumatic event of his uncaring Mom’s living a happy life with her partner after her sudden disappearance from her family.

The blending of these sobering revelations with playful home movies and vibrant experimental filmmaking by brother and director Reed Harkness, and the documentary follows Sam as he grows up. In a vivid collage of vintage fictional films, home videos, and intimate family interviews over the decades, Reed and Sam take a 2,000-mile road trip in search of answers. His mother Jois’ complicated adoption history from Japan, and its ripple effects on the Harkness family including Sam’s brother Jared, father Randy, and grandma Doris are detailed. Sam begins to distance himself from his mother’s memory and just called her once every three or four months. Besides balancing heavy themes and emotional reckonings with youthful energy and lighthearted spirit, the optimistic teenage Sam with his heart set on finding his mom grows into a man whose new hope is to break the generational cycle.

Sam’s question-answer session with the audience after the movie revealed it was very difficult for him to start any relationships with girls after being hurt by his Mom’s infidelity towards her family and saying that he has no children.

During an exclusive question by the Canadian Media, asking if his devotion to youth mental health and taking care of foster children by giving them love had healed him of his wound, he replied that the healing is a life-long process and that he only aspires to break this infidelity cycle for the future well-being of the children.

(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)

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