September Says Review: Analysing Sisterly Bonds

Evaluating Labed's Auspicious Directorial Debut

Ariane Labed makes her directorial debut with September Says, adapted from Daisy Johnson’s 2020 novel Sisters. The film tells the intimate story of sisters September and July, played by Pascale Kann and Mia Tharia, and explores their close yet troubling relationship. Labed previously made a name for herself in beautifully odd Greek films like Attenberg, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari.

September and July have forged their own private world, finding joy in imaginative games and misfit freedom. But pressures emerge as they near adulthood. September asserts a dominant role,a while the timid July follows without a fully formed identity. Their bond is tested when July attracts romantic interest and faces unforeseen consequences, prompting their mother, Sheela, portrayed by Sex Education’s Rakhee Thakrar, to relocate the family.

Labed captures the fragility of adolescence through nuanced performances, showing sisters teetering between enchantment and unease. Their bond intensifies as the film shifts tone, hinting at trauma that subtly shapes their dynamic. With compassion, September Says immerses viewers in this family’s intimate world to explore how a treasured sisterhood both empowers and potentially imperils its members as they grow into womanhood.

Sisterly Bond Tested

September and July have had an intensely close relationship from an early age. September, the elder by just over a year, takes on a protective yet dominating role. She’s bold and assertive, unafraid to retaliate against cruelty. Timid July looks up to her sister, seemingly lacking her own identity while fully in September’s shadow.

September Says Review

Their tight bond becomes their safe haven, shutting out a hostile outside world. As misfits, the girls find joy in wild imaginings and games within their private world. But adolescence brings changes that threaten to disrupt their dynamic. When July attracts unwanted attention, an unknown “incident” forces their relocation, and the sisters’ bond enters turbulent waters.

Sheela, their single mother, adores her daughters, though her maternal presence becomes distracted. A struggling artist, she instilled a pride in nonconformity but also a roaming detachment. Her depression deepens in Ireland as she recedes, leaving the girls to navigate new pressures on their own.

Much emerges in Ireland as the sisters drift apart. Romantic interest in July unsettles her symbiotic role. An independent spirit stirs yet also fear, symbolized by sexual awakening. This challenges September’s control while her possessiveness intensifies. Their folie à deux takes a toll as buried wounds surface.

A revelatory twist upends expectations in September’s’ climactic moments. But its compassionate portrait lingers, tracing how a treasured sisterly bond both empowered and imperiled its members through resilience and relationships’s darker sides. Ultimately, it poignantly observes life’s complexity, from family ties that nourish us to those that risk undoing when pushed to extremes in our formative bloom to womanhood.

 Capturing Complex Emotions

Ariane Labed brings a distinctive style to September Says that amplifies its complex themes. With experience acting in oblique dramas, she understands that subtlety conveys more than shocks. Her direction immerses us in familial intimacy yet reveals darker depths.

Labed allows nuanced performances to unfold naturally. Pascale Kann and Mia Tharia breathtakingly convey the sisters’ bond, twisting from love to possession. Rakhee Thakrar movingly portrays a mother drifting from her daughters’ needs. All feel rooted in recognizable humanity, despite peculiar behaviors and responses.

She sets an unforced yet ominous tone. Gentle scenes warm us to the family before hints of affliction seep in. Strange sounds and flashbacks gradually saturate an atmosphere once familiar. We share her non-judgmental empathy for characters as their private wounds surface.

Comparisons to Yorgos Lanthimos aptly note the tonal similarities between their works. But Labed wields unease less distinctly. No shocking twist dictates September Says; revelations proceed from authentic relationships and actions. Her direction stimulates thought rather than visceral reaction.

Comedy rarely feels mechanically inserted, either. Humor arises from character truths, like a mother’s blunt sexual reawakening. These grounded yet oblique touches are Labed’s signatures. They immerse us in complex emotions that are too elusive for direct expression.

Through sensitive yet unflinching portraitures, Labed’s assured debut captures a family’s capacity for empowerment and damage alike. Her quiet mastery evokes lives’ messy intricacies better than shock tactics could. September Says proves a director tuned to life’s deepest dissonances.

Embodying Emotional Truth

Pascale Kann, Mia Tharia, and Rakhee Thakrar breathe soul into September Says’ peculiar yet profound characters. Through fearless performances, they immerse us in the turbulence stirring beneath placid surfaces.

Kann commands empathy as controlling sister September, who masks inner frailties with bravado. Devoted to quirky individualism, she towers over July yet glimpses life beyond their twined world. Beneath aggression flickers vulnerability, yearning for trusted bonds to withstand change.

In July, Tharia embodies adolescent awakening with sensitive insight. Awed by September yet outgrowing her shadow, divided impulses surface through shy smiles and flickering uncertainty. Her burgeoning independence hints at desires September cannot contain, creating fault lines in their relationship.

Thakrar movingly portrays a mother drifting apart from a daughter clinging to childhood. Distanced yet devoted, she strives to meet their fanciful spirit while navigating private wounds. Her nuanced role finds poignancy in fleeting moments of reconnecting this fractured family.

Together, they weave a tapestry of tender, toxic, and transforming love. No performance feels mannered or expositional; emotional truth simply unfolds through eyes, gestures, and the heartbreaking pleasure of little rituals binding these unique souls. Character quirks never overshadow interior journeys emerging with organic grace.

As the film progresses, fissures deepen in the sisters’ insular world while maturity dawns outside its borders. Yet throughout, these gifted actresses locate flickers of empathy persevering between wounded souls grasping for light in a changing world. Their indelible portraits linger as September Says’ most haunting yet hopeful aspect.

 Unpacking September Says

September Says tackles poignant themes through haunting allegories. Sisterhood acts as the film’s heartbeat, as bonds both nurture and torture its protagonists. Their relationship hints at trauma’s power to warp young minds, yet it also shows love’s resilience amidst suffering.

Sheela’s struggles hint at mental health’s complex roots. Her daughters revel in fantasy, partly due to coping with a mother lost in her own dilemmas. Yet her devotion endures, reminding us that even broken souls can mend what they cherish.

The film remains elusive about the dark forces shaping this family. Flickers of violence and unseen misdeeds permeate the script like shadows, inviting interpretation. Labed seems less fixated on concrete answers than on emotional truths surfacing from memories’ murk.

Her direction immerses us in September and July’s surreal private sphere through dreamlike flourishes. Fantastical games and costumes become shields, obscuring a history only grief can articulate. Even their names suggest a poem about their entwined destiny.

Like the novel, Labed offers more resonance than solutions. Fragile lives intersect against backdrops shifting between quaint shores and haunting schoolyards, just as innocence and experience clash within these sensitive souls. Some wounds never heal, yet love and imagination can keep hope alive through darkness.

Subtext takes center stage in a film that illuminates family traumas seldom spoken of yet deeply felt. Its examination of being young, different, and deeply bonded lingers with symbolic poignancy and insight into the resilience of the human spirit.

 Dreamlike Depths

September Says immerses viewers in a haunting dream world through a visual and aural style. Cinematographer Balthazar Lab frames scenes with subtle intimacy, avoiding flashy techniques that may disrupt our absorption. Up-close perspectives emphasize bonds yet hint at looming shadows.

In surroundings that are sparse yet vividly portrayed, every glance and gesture takes on fraught nuance. The lab allows the family’s connection to shine through while leaving unease swirling just beneath. Transitions between joy and sorrow flow seamlessly like tides of emotion.

Composer Johnnie Burn then elevates suspense through an unsettling score. Distorted voices in the wind call to mind troubled minds veiled from view. Unexpected noises piercing tranquil moments add layers of interpretation to seemingly innocuous events.

Melodies both tender and dissonant haunt the Irish coastline, reflecting inner terrains that are ever-shifting. Discordant notes swell at climaxes to near-unbearable levels, mirroring tensions ready to overflow. His auditory illusions infiltrate our perceptions like resurfacing memories, best left undisturbed.

Together, visual and aural atmospheres draw us into September and July’s close yet fraying bond. We feel what surrounds their anguished world more than we see outright answers. In evoking sensation over exposition, Labed and Burn let each viewer uncover profound emotional truths for themselves.

Fragile Bonds Explored

September Says delves into complex relationships with nuanced performances at the helm. Labed demonstrates skill in cultivating an eerie ambiance and eliciting empathy for her oddball clan. She grasps the stirring connection between sisters despite intimate flaws left carefully unvoiced.

While perhaps losing some clarity in adaptation, the director conveys emotional truths gripping in their suggestion. Her assured control of mood sustains intrigue to the cryptic reveal, blurring lines between reality and inner torment. Visually, she immerses us in their distressed world, letting each viewer find unique meanings.

With this accomplished debut, Labed proves daring to tackle turbulent subjects less often explored. She depicts the mysteries within family bonds in all their fragile beauty and pain. Though she leaves some character details vague, her empathy for humanity’s shadows remains. For those open to troubling journeys, September Says’ spell will linger long in fragmented impressions and unanswered questions about the heart.

Labed shows promise, guiding further revelations from the edges of human experience. This glimpse into fractured souls merits anticipation for wherever her discerning vision might wander next.

The Review

September Says

8 Score

September Says elevates quiet portraits of familial complexity above straightforward narrative. By prioritizing emotional truth over tidy explanations, Labed crafts an unforgettable tale of love's limits and life's unseen torments. While not perfect, her auspicious direction and performances draw us into the private pains beneath surface normalcy. Ultimately, the film lingers in the heart by honoring darkness' humanity.


  • Nuanced exploration of a psychological drama with compelling characters
  • Strong direction establishes an unsettling atmosphere and emotional intimacy.
  • Performances elicit empathy for the eccentric family dynamic.
  • Subtly conveys emotional truths through mood over direct storytelling.


  • The adaptation loses some clarity from the source novel.
  • The backstories of the mother and past trauma could be more fleshed out.
  • Tone veers toward impenetrability at times instead of accessibility.

Review Breakdown

  • Overall 8
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