Thursday, July 18, 2024

Cambridge’s Devin Adair wrote and directed “Grace,” playing Sunday at the Boston Film Festival. (Photo: Stephen LaMarche)

Filmmaker Devin Adair dips into J.D. Salinger-esque territory for her first feature, “Grace,” which was shot locally and plays as part of the Boston Film Festival this weekend. Having done the recluse author thing herself, the locally reared Adair knows the terrain.

While at Harvard during the mid-1980s, Adair became the first female coxswain to guide the men’s varsity heavyweight crew team (it would be nearly another 30 years before another woman joined), and after leaving Harvard, Adair received an advance to write a book about her historic experience.

It was grueling, she said of penning “The Challenge.”

“Writing like a hermit for eight months is tough,” said Adair, who was born in Brookline and attended Andover, but lived humbly in New York City at the time, with less than $50 at her disposal when she completed the book. “You’re so alone. And I had a lot of anxiety about reentering society.” She contemplated another book, but stumbled into screenwriting instead. “The process is much more collaborative,” Adair said, “and I value input from the people I work with.” She went to Columbia University film school and joined a commercial production company before settling in Los Angeles.

Cambridge Trust Co. on Huron Avenue can be spotted in Adair’s “Grace.” (Photo: Tom Meek)

Much of Adair’s experience writing “The Challenge” floats to the surface in “Grace,” a film about a writer (Tate Donovan, appearing very Seymour Phillip Hoffman-esque) closeted away in his manse struggling to pen his next big revelation as funds dwindle and his relationship with his new assistant (Katie Cassidy) – an aspiring writer – moves beyond the strictly professional.

For anyone who writes, “Grace” bears more than few reflective (and cathartic) nuggets, with some dramatic complications. Most stem from Matthew Lillard’s smarmy agent, who grew up the writer’s best friend and has a past with the edgy – yet vulnerable – assistant.

For locals, especially Cantabrigians, there’s added fun in recognizing local spots especially the Cambridge Trust Co. on Huron Avenue (Adair’s mother and stepfather live nearby) and the Thistle & Shamrock on Walden Street. Weston and the South Shore provide other locations, though overall “Grace” is an internal, intimately staged film taking place mostly at the writer’s stately retreat.

The film plays 7 p.m. Sunday at the new ShowPlace Icon lux theater in the Seaport. Adair will be in attendance for a Q&A.

For details and ticket information, visit the Boston Film Festival website.