Feeling an oncoming existential crisis, Summer (Dana Kippel) convinces four of her girlfriends to go on a desert adventure retreat where they can win thousands of dollars by completing a spiritual obstacle course. Unbeknownst to the five women, the retreat is part of an interdimensional survival game show called The Game of Life, the #1 show in the universe.
Written and directed by Kippel, Reflect is an uneven mix of philosophical musings and metaphysical comedy that raises many questions about existence and the human condition without diving deep enough to provide any answers. The film tries very hard to make you care about the characters and their journey but doesn’t take the time to let the audience get to know them before they hit the road. There are a lot of flashbacks to give us background, but they all deal with the deeply buried personal demons of the women brought to the surface as they go through the challenges. But the story doesn’t connect the dots enough about why they are THE GIRLZ who share a chat page and are so willing to go off on a desert adventure at a moment’s notice.
If you can ignore that fly-on-the-wall feeling such limited character access gives you, Reflect has some enjoyable moments. Kippel gives a strong, very natural performance as Summer, particularly in how she interacts with the weirdness surrounding the survival game, not to mention the bitchiness that keeps flaring up between the other GIRLZ. Although her character, Katie, starts as annoying as nails on a chalkboard, Grace Patterson eventually settles into a rhythm that makes her character someone you root for. (The fact that Katie gets the best, most developed, and most well-shot flashbacks is a huge factor, too.)
Reflect might have been better served if writer/director Kippel focused more on Summer and Katie’s stories, taking the audience deeper into their lives as individuals and as best friends. Adding three other women to the mix and not developing them to any worthwhile degree overcomplicates the story. So does the sci-fi veneer of beings from other dimensions watching their lives like a gameshow; it’s underdeveloped and underwhelming.