Being Here

By Sydney O’Haire | Drama
A woman goes to rehab to battle her inner demons, then unexpectedly finds a family.

Charlie has been living in a drug rehabilitation facility for some time, where she has climbed out of the struggle of addiction and created a web of support, empathy and understanding. But her three-month stint is coming to an end.

The idea of forgoing the bubble of safety leaves her feeling uncertain and fearful, and Charlie defaults to her unhealthy coping mechanisms in the face of her growing anxiety. But when one of her friends in recovery has a crisis of her own, Charlie begins to realize just what it takes to make it on the outside.

Writer-director Sydney O’Haire’s finely wrought, empathetic drama burrows deep into the drug addiction rehab experience, portraying its unique struggles, obstacles and even joys with an eye for the unique emotional pressures that addicts face when they re-enter the larger world and its attendant baggage, judgment and lack of understanding. Portrayed with muted but rich visuals and with a relative sense of calm that emphasizes the gentle, safe space of rehab, it takes on a subject matter that isn’t often given representation with such grace and compassion.

Through measured, sensitive writing and warm and vulnerable performances, the storytelling takes its time, privileging an eye and ear for character and relationships to build up Charlie’s emotional world carefully. Within the bubble of the recovery facility, Charlie has support: she is surrounded by people who understand her and don’t judge her for her checkered past; she has support and accountability; and most importantly, she has community and authentic and honest connections to people, particularly to her friend Joy.

Actors Melisa Breiner-Sanders and Carin Silkaitis, who play Charlie and Joy respectively, are both sensitive, precise performers on their own, but their rapport of friendship, openness and mutual vulnerability is the core of the film. They are co-conspirators, buddies and surrogate families to one another, with a palpable connection and shared sense of fun. They’re also both deeply flawed people who are trying to overcome their problems, which also forces them to confront the underlying issues that fueled those problems. But when both face crises, they also demonstrate what it means to be there for someone — and to really witness, understand and empathize with another’s struggle.

Many of us think people can never change, but at its heart, “Being Here” is about people trying their hardest to achieve their own transformation, transmuting the struggle, suffering and pain — both their own and that inflicted upon others — into genuine growth. With steady craftsmanship and a deep sense of compassion, it offers a realistic portrait of change, as well as a sensitive understanding of addiction with unique mental and social health challenges in its recovery process.

Recovery is truly incremental and beset with a sense of difficulty of its own, and it involves confronting the past traumas and sadnesses that likely fueled the unhealthy coping methods in the first place. As a process, it’s one day and one step at a time. But in “Being Here,” it is much easier and less lonely with the help of loved ones — for in the midst of any human struggle, sometimes all we truly have is one another, as allies in the fight to live openly, vulnerably and authentically as possible.

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