Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022
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UT professor’s A24 film ‘Janet Planet’ beautifully portrays childhood, mother-daughter relationships

UT+professor%E2%80%99s+A24+film+%E2%80%98Janet+Planet%E2%80%99+beautifully+portrays+childhood%2C+mother-daughter+relationships
Courtesy of A24

The sound of silence and crickets leads A24’s latest release “Janet Planet ” and carries throughout the film. Following 11-year-old Lacy through her summer before sixth grade, the film gently portrays Lacey aimlessly watching her mom Janet seek long-lasting relationships while their own relationship weakens. 

First premiering September 2023 and now running a limited theatrical release, “Janet Planet” marks the film debut of UT associate professor Annie Baker, known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning playwriting. Baker wrote and directed the film with little dialogue, letting the actors’ silence and her deliberate positioning of Lacy — often at the bottom or out of the camera’s frame — do more of the talking. 

First-time actress Zoe Ziegler impressively plays Lacy in the 1990s Massachusetts-based movie. Lacy is strongly attached to her mom, played by Julianne Nicholson (“Mare of Easttown”), whose focus is divided between Lacy and each new relationship in her life.


The story’s division into four parts — Wayne, Regina, Avi and The Fall — guides the audience through Janet’s longing for a lasting relationship outside of her daughter and the inevitable, growing separation between the two. The film first highlights this when one night while Lacy asks Janet to lie in bed with her for longer, Janet notes that Wayne, her boyfriend, finds it weird the two still sleep together. 

Lacy’s patience with Janet’s search for completeness from a good relationship thins with each chapter. First, Lacy advises Janet to break up with Wayne (Will Patton), later she discusses Janet’s bad taste in relationships with Janet’s friend Regina (Sophie Okonedo) and then she chooses not to hang out with Janet and her mom’s peculiar friend Avi (Elias Koteas) as she moves on to starting sixth grade. Baker displays the transition realistically rather than dramatically.

By the last scene when mother and daughter go out to contra dance, it feels clear that Lacy’s attachment to Janet has permanently changed. When the camera focuses one last time on Lacy in silence, the audience is left wondering if she is finally ready to break from revolving around “Janet Planet,” enjoy her own life and dance rather than watching Janet dance.  

There are sparks of entertainment throughout the movie in Lacy’s relatable childlike habits. For example, she shares her juice box with the random assortment of figurines in her dollhouse, sneakily uses her house guest’s shampoo while smearing strands of hair on the shower walls and proudly finishes book one of her piano lessons.

Overall, “Janet Planet” offers a break from the summer’s typical blockbuster lineup with two hours of a soft love letter to childhood and reflection on mother-daughter relationships. As both of them told the story beautifully, the movie also hopefully presents the beginning of an incredible film career for Baker and Ziegler. 

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