The Charleston International Film Festival really hit its stride on Friday, with a big, chatty crowd filling up the Sottile before the 7 p.m. feature screening. I don’t generally see that many features during festivals — as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m a sucker for the shorts — but I’m really glad I caught this one.

The film, Commencement, is a small ensemble piece about three generations dealing with the fallout from the country’s economic crisis, although it’s much more artistic and subtle than that makes it sound. College valedictorian Christa returns home after graduation for a party her parents are throwing to celebrate.

Along the way, Christa meets a Hispanic gas station attendant who turns out to be an unlikely love interest, Christa’s parents struggle to understand the reasons behind their recent separation, and Christa’s grandmother and grandfather deny and embrace their mortality, respectively. Mostly, though, the film is about love — the unconditional, family kind that doesn’t fade. Afterward, writer/director Steve Albrezzi (who teaches in the University of Southern California’s film program) and a few members of the cast came to the stage to answer questions.

There was also an excellent short that preceded Commencement, called Smile. The Italian film focused on a mime and his son, and even though there’s a small chance anyone reading this will see it — unless you make a habit of traveling to film festivals — I don’t want to give away the twist that really makes the film. It was just too beautiful.

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