REVIEW: ‘Rare Objects’ Tackles Mental Health in the Latine Community & Sadly Falls Short
More than halfway through Rare Objects, Alan Cumming, as antique dealer Peter Kessler, drops the film’s mission statement while explaining kintsugi: “The cracks, the breaks, and their mending become an intrinsic part of the object. And in fact, the object becomes more beautiful because it’s been broken.” The philosophy behind kintsugi is at the heart of Rare Objects.
The latest film from Katie Holmes, who also co-wrote, co-produced, and stars in it, is a rumination on healing and finding the beauty in brokenness. An adaptation of the Kathleen Tessaro novel of the same name, Rare Objects is a charming story about self-discovery, but misses a few beats along the way.
Benita (Julia Mayorga) is dealing with a lot. When we meet her, she’s ending her time at a psychiatric hospital, and going home to sort through her life. She admitted herself because of PTSD and anxiety after being sexually assaulted at a bar. Now that she’s out, she needs a break from school, from her old life, to rediscover herself and rethink what she wants. When she gets home, she doesn’t tell the truth to her mom, Aymee (Saundra Santiago), who just wants her daughter to go back to school to secure the life she never had.
Eventually, Benita finds a job as a salesperson at a high-end antique shop. One day, Diana (Katie Holmes), an eccentric old friend from her time at the hospital, comes into the shop, and their friendship is rejuvenated. We then follow Benita on her journey and learn lessons from the new people in her life: brokenness can be beautiful, and grief takes time.
Rare Objects, while well-meaning, can be a bit hollow in its messaging. The advice characters espouse can feel disingenuous, and while we’re privy to some details of their lives, it still feels like they’re an arms’ length away from us. The film also never moves past a surface view of mental health, relying on shorthand, cues, and platitudes that feel dismissive instead of sitting with the complicated journey Benita is on. This is most evident in Katie Holmes’ performance as Diana, who often talks about “the voices” and bemoans anyone wanting a “small life.” Ultimately, she serves as more of a condescending depiction of someone struggling with their mental health than an actual character.
However, seeing an accurate portrayal of the stigma around mental health that’s so prevalent in some Latine households was refreshing and heartbreaking. When Benita does open up a bit, her mother tells her to “Just decide you’re not anxious,” or simply, “Pray!” This will be a familiar, exhausting sight to many as will the moments Benita has to reckon with her guilt while healing: “She’s given up so much, you know,” she says in reference to her mom not knowing about her time at the hospital. It’s this specificity that makes Rare Objects stand out, and shine occasionally. It’s a broken thing, but if you look closely, you can see the gold glinting off its cracks.
Rare Objects is now available in theaters.