Danny Puner has been alone in prison for fifteen years, serving a manslaughter sentence for murdering his father. He is visited by his sister, Kathrine McLane, who, at age four, was conjoined to her mother's rejection of, and exile from (to the point of a name change) the Puner family. Now 27 years later, she visits Danny to inform him that his mother is dying. Upon her mother's death, Katherine continues to visit her brother who is suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder, and has little or no memory of either Katherine or the father's murder. Since her mother has hidden everything about the father and the family from her, and because she too has blocked out scenes of her father's sexual assaults from her child's memory, their meetings serve as steps to re-membering their erased personal histories.
The narrative is convincing and moving, slow and poetic in pace, and honest and direct. Katherine (Juliet Seal, who could play Shakespeare's Juliet) is the active and healing force in the sometimes smooth and often rocky encounters between the long estranged siblings. Danny (Arvid Larsen) is the inarticulate, disarranged incest victim, who attempts speech on many levels, but who also uses the shelter of several identities to cover for his aggressive, and accusatory behavior toward his sister who to him is as much of an interloper as a liberator. At times even, his threatening gestures seem a shadow of his father. But, in the end Katherine's visits, her research into his and her past, allows her to arrive at the truths which will set them both free.
Despite Danny's storms, obviously traceable to his buried rage, the film is never excessive. Much of this restraint is based in the nature of the prison itself, which seems to express a mild disposition much in line with Katherine's own steady, calming manner. All of the employees and guards are as temperate and human as they are reasonable. This is never spelled out, but rather exists in all the exchanges they have with Katherine and Danny. Not to credit them in the siblings' reconciliation and just restitution would be a mistake.
But Katherine is the touchstone character. Everything works through her commitment and understanding both to her brother, her mother, and herself. All her movements are directed toward these lives. Her train visits to the prison begin and end the film; her visits to the cemetery provide a kind of mother-daughter pulse which gives the film its meditative depth; and her dauntless, creative searches into her own past surpass even her brother's inward probing. It's her self-direction that strengthens and broadens the film's close-up, microcosmic incest portrayal. Which, in turn, points to centuries of abominable secrecy enveloping a form of criminality which is as despicable as it is prevalent.