In Laggies, opening Friday (October 31), a woman on the cusp of 30 ditches her life for one week of self-discovery in the company of some teens. Her fiancé thinks that Megan—played by Kiera Knightley—is attending a self-improvement course. In reality she’s sleeping on 16-year-old Annika’s bedroom floor, prepping her for prom and keeping a low profile while awakening to an unexpected connection with the kid’s divorced and considerably older father (Sam Rockwell). Morally, it’s a hornet’s nest.
“I think it’s more important for Megan’s journey that this is a relationship she chose; this is choice she’s making. It’s about her finding agency in her life,” offers director Lynn Shelton, calling the Straight from her home in Seattle. “I feel like I can completely relate to the character. It doesn’t feel quite right to call Megan a slacker. She still has ambition. She has this advanced degree but her gut told her, ‘Know what? Don’t go there yet. It’s not quite right.’ She doesn’t know what she wants to do but she knows what she doesn’t want to do, which is to fall in lockstep with this conventional timeline of what quote-unquote adults are supposed to do and that all of her friends around her are doing. Something tells her inside that it’s not right for her. ‘Laggie’ is a bit of a mislead. It implies there’s a failure; a failure to launch; a failure to get your life going.”
Shelton’s biggest film—after microbudget mumblecore winners like Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister—has a few points to make about the future waiting on the other side of 30 for the millennial generation. Megan’s flight from a promising career choice and an adoring partner might be impetuous and selfish, but it’s hardly incomprehensible. For Shelton, a Generation Xer with the some hindsight of her own to bring to Andrea Siegel’s screenplay, it’s pretty familiar.
“I have this very conventional life,” says Shelton. “I have a house, and a mortgage, and a husband, and a kid, but I also feel like I’ve been able to live the artist life, and I’ve been able to write my own script. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times people have asked me at festivals or wherever I am: ‘Do you live in LA or New York?’ Well, I don’t live in either. I live in a totally different city, and it surprises people, because you’re not supposed to be able to live here and make a living doing what I do. I’ve tried to do things on my own terms and it took me 20 years to get to doing what I’m doing so I really relate to that prolonged journey of self-discovery. It’s great! I think that’s wonderful!”
It’s also worth noting that Shelton make no assumptions about the longterm success of Megan’s choices. She mentions Harold and Maude and “the idea that if there are two souls that are gonna connect, then they’re gonna connect no matter what, you know?” But she also refuses to commit to a happy-ever-after scenario. "At the ends of my movies I wanna hand the pen over to the audience,” she says. "Let them fill in their own blanks about what happens afterwards.”