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Wisconsin Film Festival: “Ringolevio” is a delicate and intense relationship drama

Edwanike Harbour examines Kristin Peterson’s love letter to the wackiness of a rural Wisconsin clan.

This year’s Wisconsin Film Festival has managed to persevere embracing a virtual format. While the offerings are not as numerous, they are no less engaging. Viewers don’t have to worry about long lines or parking, as they are free to view their selections from the comfort and safety of home. Sure, a certain camaraderie is lacking now that we’re not standing in line and comparing notes or reminiscing about past festivals; but the good folks of the fest have once again curated a heavily stacked smorgasbord of cinematic delights (that are available through May 20). Keeping within the theme of Wisconsin’s Own is director Kristin Peterson’s unusual relationship drama, Ringolevio (2020).

Straight-laced Ada (Nicole Velasco Lockard) is an amateur entomologist. The opening close-ups of various insects introduce us to someone meticulous in character who errs on the side of orderliness. She’s taking a road trip with girlfriend Marissa (Meredith Johnston of Pet Names from WFF 2019) to a remote Wisconsin town to reunite with her three brothers who she hasn’t seen in quite some time. While Marissa tries to warn Ada that the sibling relationship is a bit unconventional, Ada is not prepared for the all-out level of weirdness.

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Marissa’s three brothers—Ozzie (Joshua Koopman), Arthur (Cory Hardin), and Wren (Zachary Krueger)—make a jarring and excited first impression upon the girls’ arrival. And things go out of whack from that first meeting onward. Ozzie ends up grilling Ada on why they have not met her until now. But this has little to do with any of Ada’s decisions, as we slowly come to realize she is doing the very best she can to try and blend in with Marissa’s family.

For example, the titular “Ringolevio” is a childhood game the siblings play that involves two teams. One group has to chase and capture the other by placing a hula hoop-type object around them. Meaning, they can’t escape once they are captured. During the game, Ada tries to tag Marissa; and in the process Marissa unfortunately falls and badly injures her leg. Naturally, Ada feels horrible as every attempt she makes at fitting in seems to fail. Marissa and Ada have to sleep in bunk beds during the visit, which only adds to the already hyper-awkward situation.

Marissa’s brothers do not make their stay an easy one, as they all have bizarre habits and poor sense of boundaries. In one scene, one of the brothers runs in to the restroom as Ada uses the shower, and he just tells her to “do what she needs to do” while he’s in there. Ada is clearly trying to take this all in stride so she can be supportive and present for her girlfriend. As the situation begins to wear on her, however, it becomes apparent that the brothers’ strange antics have only aggravated the cracks already present in the veneer of the relationship. Marissa does not always feel understood, and this was an issue prior to their dating. Any attempt Ada makes to connect to Marissa pushes her further away. Their odd couple dynamic is delicate and intense all at once.

If anyone has family in a remote Wisconsin town, an element of this weirdness may be somewhat relatable, as long-distance visits can often bring out deeper family issues. Kristin Peterson does a commendable job directing this film, which is aided by Dana Shihadah’s glowing cinematography style that captures beautiful golden hues and hushed tones of rural Wisconsin’s natural earthiness. At a breezy 80 minutes, Ringolevio is a nice slice of Wisconsin life that makes a good addition to the 2021 festival lineup.

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