What would you do if you discovered a whole side of your family you never knew existed? Only child Davis Green is more than thrilled to find out about his long-lost cousins. But dark family secrets have kept his father and uncle apart for decades and uncovering them becomes a tense endeavor. On top of that, Davis develops romantic feelings for a cousin.
Boston chef/restaurateur Davis (Lincoln’s Joseph Cross) is struggling with his relationship with his girlfriend, Cassie (Daredevil’s Deborah Ann Woll). In the middle of one of her bouts of anxiety, Davis decides to get some fresh air and to take out the trash, and he runs into a surprise guest outside his door: a young, beautiful blonde woman claiming to be his cousin, Alexis (The Great Gatsby’s Adelaide Clemens). She had caught his attention earlier that night at his restaurant, so Davis is wary, especially as his father has never mentioned having a sibling and since this teary stranger has apparently tracked him down. At first, Davis brushes the emotional Alexis off as being very much mistaken.
Her visit makes him second-guess, though, and he decides to ask his family, which leads to his psychologist father (Richard Schiff) admitting that he has an older brother, but something terrible happened between him and the rest of the family. Dad refuses to explain further, only to say that there is good reason Davis has never known his uncle.
Driven by curiosity, Davis travels to upstate New York to track down Alexis. He meets two more cousins and is delighted to get to know the three outgoing sisters. Alexis is especially high-spirited, and she pretends that Davis is her new boyfriend after he has slept over at her parents’ farm. Davis’s Uncle Josh (Ricky Jay) instantly recognizes Davis as his nephew, but like his brother, he refuses to discuss the past. Davis begrudgingly decides to head back to Boston, but Alexis is determined to mend ties between their families. She’s also overly curious about his and Cassie’s relationship. Her attempt to bring the two families together will bring about an intense reunion where everyone is on edge and secrets are finally revealed.
The Automatic Hate is an engaging film. It begins as a steady-paced drama, driven by the mystery of the family grudge and by its well-drawn characters. Clemens stands out. The impulsive Alexis is often on the verge of tears, and Clemens does a wonderful job of keeping the character realistically emotional throughout. Jay’s performance is also noteworthy; as Uncle Josh, he maintains a cool, hardened exterior, with something darker bubbling under the surface.
Director Justin Lerner keeps the look of the film quite sunny until the dark family reunion. The bright colors of Alexis’s family farm, the fact that cell phones don’t quite work up in the country, makes the film appear almost like an out-of-time adult fairy tale. The Automatic Hate, however, does reach a shocking climax, even if it doesn’t quite pay off in the film’s quiet conclusion; the script could have spent a little more time fleshing out the family twists and turns. Nevertheless, The Automatic Hate is a gripping drama.