Home » ‘Peak Season’ Delivers Romantic Beauty for Heartbroken Millennials

‘Peak Season’ Delivers Romantic Beauty for Heartbroken Millennials

The older we get, the fewer first kisses we have. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing: Many of us aspire to find that one true love, sticking with them til death do us part. But what if there isn’t just one? Or worse, what if the one we’ve settled for isn’t actually the love we want or need after all?

These questions drive Peak Season, which premiered at SXSW over the weekend. It’s a rom-com that ends in tears, and a melancholic love story with a lot of laughs. That seems to be the point of co-directors/writers Steven Kanter and Henry Loevner’s script, which feels alive in ways many recent films about love don’t. Between the gorgeously considered shots of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Peak Season takes place, and the small details defining each character, the film is a breath of fresh, high-altitude air.

Amy (Claudia Restrepo) and her fiancé Max (Derrick DeBlasis) arrive at Max’s family’s giant vacation home in Jackson Hole with every intention of relaxing. Amy recently quit an unfulfilling consultancy job, much to Max’s chagrin; Max is a high-powered exec in a supply chain management company that commands all of his attention, so he can’t imagine a life without work. Still, the pair seem happy, even as Amy dreads wedding planning and catching up with her future in-laws’ friends.

Those friends, who have retired to the resort town like myriad other obscenely rich white people, set Amy and Max up with fishing lessons as a gift. Loren (Ben Coleman) is beloved around these parts for offering all kinds of outdoorsy services, from rock climbing tutorials to landscaping to teaching vacationers how to fly fish. Still, he’s barely scraping by, living in his car with his dog and showering with a hose.

When work takes Max away from the vacation almost as soon as it starts, Amy decides to strike it out alone on that fishing lesson. She and Loren bond instantly over their similar senses of humor, love of the unbelievably beautiful nature, and uncertainty about their lives’ purposes.

It’s inevitable that Loren and Amy will fall for each other, but it’s delightful to watch them do so. Theirs is a slow-burning relationship built over dates to the rodeo and backyard parties with Loren’s friends. He takes her on hikes Max would never bother with; she opens up to him about her doubts around her relationship, itself born of post-grad inevitabilities. Their conversations are genuine, full not of flirtatious glances or asides but subtle twinges of feeling. It’s the kind of romance that both know can’t happen—Amy is not only in Jackson on vacation; she’s also engaged—but their eyes betray the irrational hope they still have for a future together.

All of this works because of Restrepo and Coleman’s instant, natural chemistry. Restrepo is especially excellent as a woman caught between two imperfect options, always hilarious while still full of self-doubt. Amy puts on weird little voices with Max as an inside joke, and she hits Loren with lovingly snarky barbs at his lifestyle. But she also challenges both Loren and herself to question why they are stuck in the places they’re stuck in: Amy left her consultancy job, but she hasn’t left her career. Loren’s friends are moving out of Jackson, but he can’t bear to give up his lifestyle.

Kanter and Loevner shoot these conversations with an unflinching and affecting grip. In prioritizing these thoughtful sit-downs, Peak Season is reminiscent of movies like Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, stories that similarly challenge romance conventions to prioritize more intellectual relationship-building. The lack of theatrics also allows the beauty of the town to shine through; Loren and Amy’s emotional affair blossoms beneath blue skies and jagged rocks, which they’re always sure to point out.

Also top of mind is the class dynamic that brought Amy to Loren to begin with. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Amy openly admits to feeling awkward about staying in a huge house with her rich fiancé. But Loren, who has lived a vagabond lifestyle for 15 years, can both appreciate and see through it; Amy is as much a willing beneficiary of her expensive connections as she is a critical one. She’s certainly not complaining about staying in a house alone with multiple bathrooms and bedrooms and a housekeeper. (The pair of Spanish speakers greet each other early on, an establishing scene that quickly tells us Amy is different from her chosen family.)

But what brings Amy and Loren together will also be what drives them apart. Peak Season is sure not to demonize Max, instead giving us moments where Amy’s love for him comes through clearly too. He may be work-pilled, but Max isn’t heartless. Still, it’s hard not to root for Team Loren after watching them together. This difficult love triangle tugs at our heartstrings as much as Amy and Loren’s, thanks to Restrepo and Coleman’s lived-in performances.

No one left the theater with a dry eye at the end of Peak Season—and all of us hoped to find our vacation boyfriend one day too, to chase that feeling of being alive that only a consummated crush can bring. Parting is, indeed, such sweet sorrow.

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March 2023