Set in New Zealand, the film’s initial focus is on Sam (George Ferrier), a troubled young man still reeling from his mother’s death. His father, Robert (Marton Csokas), decided to send him to boarding school, where he was always acting out and getting into trouble. After yet another incident, Robert brings him home with news—his own estranged mother, famed war photographer and gin enthusiast Ruth (Rampling) has broken her leg back in England, and he, along with his devoted nurse, Sarah (Poor Edith), come to stay with them to recover. Needless to say, Sam isn’t thrilled when someone he’s never met comes to stay in his mother’s room. He was not very happy when, when he was ensconced, Robert went to London for business, essentially leaving his mother and son at the same time.
It’s no wonder that Ruth is not happy with her predicament or the current arrangement—when Sarah’s well-intentioned wife brings a priest, Ruth drives her away with a bribe and some choice obscenities. And when Sam deliberately downed his gin, he responded by bouncing the glass off his head. However, as they are forced to spend more time together, the two gradually realize that they have more in common than they first suspected, and a bond begins to grow between them. Of course, this hard-earned bit of emotional peace doesn’t last. And so comes a tragedy, if not completely unexpected, returns in the last act that forces the two to come to terms with their lives and their respective relationships with Robert before time runs out for both of them.
There is probably not a major development in the plot of “Juniper” that one cannot get from hearing a one-line description of the plot. There are also several hiccups in Saville’s screenplay that bears the sometimes-awkward mark of a first-time filmmaker—the occasional presence of a horse that once belonged to Sam’s late mother is highly symbolic. for his own good, and the trouble. The relationship between Robert and Ruth is not developed. And yet, while the film never transcends its familiar trappings, it occasionally offers enough of a twist on them to make it effective.