Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Brittany Snow’s feature directorial debut arrives at the Woodstock Film Festival, in the form of captivating drama, Parachute. For anyone who has ever suffered from body image issues or the horrors of eating disorders, Parachute may be particularly triggering. Its lead character frustrates almost as frequently as she garners empathy. Parachute is so much more than just a little movie about hot-button issues. This isn’t “that eating disorder movie”—rather, Snow, who also co-wrote the script, makes Parachute about discovering how to love oneself.

Paranoia injects into Riley’s veins from the first moment we are introduced to her. Freshly out of rehab, Riley (Courtney Eaton, Gods of Egypt, Mad Max: Fury Road) cannot help getting sucked back into assessment of her own body image. Social media swirls like a vortex—drastic zoom-ins on body parts emphasize Riley’s focus on those segments of her own body. That same night she finally goes free, Riley meets adorkable Ethan (Thomas Mann, Project X, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) at a karaoke night. Against her better judgment, Riley throws herself into this new interaction. Only minutes after they connect over Ethan’s fresh breakup and Riley’s rehab stint, he invites her to join him for Thai food.

Ethan and Riley seem almost too good to be true, and for awhile they really are. She straight up tells him she cannot have sex with him, but he ends up going up to her apartment and stripping off all of his clothes anyway. Their vibe is awkward as hell, yet somehow the chemistry between Mann and Eaton really help to sell this. Parachute seems as if it is content to slide into romantic comedy trappings. Snow’s script, co-written with Becca Gleason, presents an authenticity that makes the blossoming romance that much easier to digest.

Ultimately, Parachute distances itself from the romance element, as Riley struggles with her reemerging body issues. Ethan’s first touch practically sears her skin, and even taking a shower alone presents an unforeseen struggle. The film portrays binge-eating and anxiety attacks nakedly free from glamorization. Each time Riley spirals, Ethan doesn’t seem to be the reason, but rather Riley’s own uncertainty with herself. The mere mention of an ex sends her down a dangerous path of thinking. 

Instead of facing traumas head-on, Riley seems to be channeling a new kind of addiction. Her therapist, Dr. Akerman (Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin, Annihilation), suggests that Riley may be using Ethan. Close friend Casey (Francesca Reale, Dating & New York, Do Revenge) and her new hubby, Justin (Kid Cudi, X, Don’t Look Up), distance themselves from Riley, as her struggles take precedence over anything in their own lives. Riley’s self-hate becomes a toxic self-obsession. She keeps using person after person, desperately trying to fill the emptiness inside.

As stated before, Riley is a difficult character to sympathize with entirely, mainly because her self-destruction feels orchestrated by her own hand. Yet, her sincerity and drive to actually make a positive change in her life becomes inspiring rather than reductive. Parachute gives the character time to breathe and grow free from Ethan, making the connection they share that much sweeter. Brittany Snow’s efforts should not go unnoticed—the celebrated actress has crafted a passion project sure to speak to many folks who have faced similar issues. Parachute implores the viewer to look within, finding healing through love.

Parachute screened at the 24th annual Woodstock Film Festival.

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