Co-writer, director, and star Katie Burrell takes on the challenge of reviving the ski movie genre with “Weak Layers.” The film follows the escapades of Cleo, a young woman attempting to pull her life together during a 72-hour filmmaking competition. While not a nostalgic return to the heyday of ski films, Burrell injects some mild appeal into the effort. The writing, co-authored by Burrell and Andrew Ladd, leans more towards character experiences than mountain activities, aiming to create an emotionally engaging feature with endearing and mischievous personalities.
“Weak Layers” loses momentum when sticking to the expected, but gains traction in portraying the ski town atmosphere and the challenges of maturation. Burrell effectively captures the vibrancy of the area and explores universal concerns about future plans.
Residing in Tahoe for the past decade, Cleo (Katie Burrell) identifies as an outdoor adventure filmmaker, although she has yet to seriously pursue this passion. Living with roommates Lucy (Jadyn Wong) and Tina (Chelsea Conwright), Cleo faces eviction and ends up living in her ex-boyfriend’s van. Fearing the pursuit of her dream, Cleo is thrust into action with the “Hot Lapse” filmmaking competition, relying on Tina and Lucy for assistance. Amidst this, she encounters Gabe (Evan Jonigkeit), a pro skier returning to the sport, sparking mutual attraction that complicates Cleo’s focus and tests her bonds with her best friends.
The film portrays Tahoe as a perpetual party scene, as Cleo grapples with the balance between a stable life and her current reality of constant revelry. The trio’s irresponsible lifestyle catches up with them when they lose their living space, leaving them with no money and only a borrowed van for shelter. “Weak Layers” primarily delves into Cleo’s realization of her immaturity, heightened as the filmmaking challenge deadline approaches, revealing her more at ease presenting others’ ski videos than contributing her own.
The film gains momentum as Cleo enters the “Hot Lapse” competition, introducing Gabe and his director Dane (Neal Bledsoe). Cleo’s struggles to organize herself and navigate the unpredictable behavior of her friends contribute to the film’s engaging moments. Despite avoiding an in-depth exploration of the filmmaking process, the movie perks up during Cleo’s quest for unique footage, especially when her filmmaking idol, director Scott Gaffney, makes a cameo appearance as one of the judges.
“Weak Layers” focuses more on relationship dynamics than skiing, opting for a predictable narrative. Cleo’s character, with potential for a deeper exploration of arrested development, is somewhat underutilized. While lacking in dramatic depth, Burrell’s charismatic performance and the film’s evocative portrayal of ski town life elevate “Weak Layers” to a passable level. Burrell demonstrates competence as a filmmaker, infusing the endeavor with moments of personality and crisis.