If you have siblings, you know that those relationships can be complex and very strong, even if you don’t necessarily like each other all that much sometimes. But for good or ill, there’s often a bond that can’t be broken and there isn’t much we wouldn’t do for our siblings even when they drive us crazy. Certainly brothers and sisters often instinctively know the best way to persuade (or guilt) a sibling into going along with things they think are silly, as happens in The Red Lotus. Michelle (Jennifer Plotzke) has talked her little sister Debbie (Shara Ashley Zeiger) into trying a weekend yoga retreat at the aforementioned Red Lotus, even though Debbie clearly thinks the whole idea is ridiculous. But Michelle has recently broken up with her horrible boyfriend Adam (Jared Prudoff-Smith), so perhaps Debbie thinks she’s in need of humoring.
Meeting Orelia (Paula Rossman), the woman who runs The Red Lotus, isn’t exactly reassuring either, as she prattles on about the symbolism of the center’s name and the proper chants to use. But The Red Lotus is more than it appears to be, and Michelle didn’t ask Debbie to come along merely to keep her company. The film is set slightly in the future, at a time where Roe v. Wade has been overturned, and this seemingly innocuous retreat also provides a now-illegal service that Michelle is in need of. Debbie, understandably, is shocked to discover that she’s been dragged into something shady, and it seems as though this is one sisterly bond that might have reached the breaking point.
But it’s that very relationship between the sisters that turns the movie into something special. It’s otherwise a refreshingly, almost shockingly matter of fact look at a world that’s gone backwards, a film that faces the issues without trying to play on the emotions. It’s poignant enough to experience this world through the eyes of the sisters and the movie wisely avoids delving into moral arguments. Though some of the later scenes aren’t particularly realistic, much of the film has more of an allegorical feel to it — a sense that anyone might find themselves or someone they care about in a similar situation — and the important point is that Michelle and Debbie are as solid and real as they get, offering a keen, timely reminder that we all need to value our freedoms while we still have them.