The idea of a substance abuse counsellor who is an alcoholic herself is a premise ripe for comedy. In the hands of Molly McGlynn, the writer-director of Mary Goes Round, the jokes, as sly has they might be, take a backseat to the intricate drama on display.

Prior to her DUI arrested, Mary (Aya Cash) spends her day counselling others through their addictions while being in denial of her own. Now with her career and romantic life in shambles, Mary decides to return to her hometown in Niagara Falls to reconnect with her estranged father Walt (John Ralston). Despite reaching out to Mary on numerous occasions, Walt neglects to tell her that he is dying of cancer. Furthermore, Walt is hoping that Mary will not only bond with her teenage half-sister, Robyn (Sara Waisglass), whom she has never met, but also break the news to her as well.

McGlynn’s film paints an engaging portrait of a family wrestling with their own demons. In observing the complex nature of Mary’s family dynamics, McGylnn reminds the viewer that running away from one’s problems, or drowning in vices, only quells them for so long. This does not mean the road to reconciliations will be smooth. However, learning to face the long gestating emotions of grief and anger head-on are integral in breaking the shackles of expectation and disappointment of the past.

Anchored by Aya Cash’s delicate performance, one that is wrought with anxiety and emotional pain, the weight of Mary’s choices, for better or worse, really resonate with the viewer. Although the narrative is rather conventional, as the audience ponders when, not if, Mary will begin to get her life back on track, the characters are constructed in such a way that one remains intrigued by each of their plights. This is especially true for supporting characters like Lou (Melanie Nicholls-King in a wonderfully understated performance), who would not have been as layered in the hands of another director.

It is this attention that McGylnn gives to each person’s strengths and foibles that allows Mary Goes Round to be a nuanced character study of pain and healing.