Just an Illusion follows the Meyers family and its passion for amateur sailing across 11 years and multiple adventures. Tim Meyers and his four sons — Mark, Nathan, Jay and Sam — all share an interest in the hobby. Jay directed the film (and was also behind the camera for Three Eras, another indie I reviewed earlier this year), and it is composed of a mixture of interviews and old videos from family trips. It jumps around in time, sometimes to a confusing degree, while trying to make a larger point about the power of tackling a dream as a family. Its heart is in the right place, but it mostly feels like watching someone’s home videos.
Tim’s longtime dream is to sail with his sons from their Illinois home to Mobile, Ala., on his sailboat, the Illusion. That core story is told in fits and spurts over the course of the film. A lot of time is spent with the sailors as they deal with the problems that arise while traveling downriver — leaks, toilet troubles, engine issues and even fish jumping into their boat. Luck and duct tape help solve many of these problems before they become too serious. This footage is probably the most fun out of everything in the film — just a nice family having a nice time together.
There are also snippets of Tim telling his stories of sailing in the 1970s, which includes a sojourn around New Zealand that was a good deal more terrifying than his present-day trip downriver. Sailing is clearly a passion he shares with his sons.
As far as feature-length documentaries go, there isn’t a whole lot else going on in Just an Illusion. It establishes the Meyers family and their close-knit nature, and we get to see them work together to overcome problems. There’s a big DIY element to the sailing and the video production, including the end credits. In some ways, it’s hard to review something like Just an Illusion, which feels made for the family as a keepsake rather than as a film to be seen and screened for a larger audience.