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The Independent Critic

Sarah Moore, Melissa Chapman, Raymond Kester, Kami Leach, Jamie Angel, Chris Spurgin
Kate Chaplin
78 Mins.

 "Ingenue" the Debut Feature From Indy Director Kate Chaplin 
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 In Indiana filmmaker Kate Chaplin's feature film debut, Ingenue, a married couple (Melissa Chapman and Raymond Kester) discover an analog (Sarah Moore) in their basement and are blackmailed by big business into the massive undertaking of raising what looks like a 20-year-old young woman yet possesses the emotional and cognitive intellect of a toddler. 

Named a "Naptown Notable Resident" by Intake Magazine, Chaplin has been building quite the name for herself through a variety of projects put together by Karmic Courage Productions, a film and media company she started in Indy with the primary vision of creating realistic and positive female role models. Up to now, Chaplin has primarily focused her energy on such memorable short films as First They Came For, Love Dance and my personal favorite, Leah Not Leia. Willing to tell both challenging and sentimental stories, Chaplin does both with her first feature film. 

Ingenue is getting ready to have its world premiere at downtown Indianapolis's IMAX Theater on March 23rd, while the film has already been named an official selection of South Bend, Indiana's River Bend Film Festival. It would be surprising to not see the film pop up at some other indie and regional festivals before its expected extended life on home video. 

If there's one reason that Ingenue really works, it's unquestionably the layered and natural performance of the delightful Sarah Moore as our analog, Rosie. Moore will be familiar to fans of Chaplin's work thanks to her appearance in Chaplin's recent short film Home Security, though it's hard not to expect her fine work here will open up more than a few doors for the talented actress. As Rosie, Moore offers a wonderfully transformative performance that portrays the many stages of development without ever allowing them to become a caricature. 

This ain't no Billy Madison. 

Early in the film, Moore's performance is touchingly sweet and innocent and vulnerable while one can't help but feel her emotional and intellectual challenges as she begins to "grow" under the guidance of her parents, Carol (Melissa Chapman) and Adam (Raymond Kester), whose presence here could have so easily become a cartoon if not for Chaplin's honest dialogue and the relaxed and authentic performances of both Chapman and Kester. While both Chapman and Kester are strong, Chapman really resonates with her ability to exude a warmth and maternal nature that makes her scenes with Moore radiate with what feels like a genuine familial bond. 

Ingenue is at its best when its exploring the very real world challenges of what it means to raise a young "woman" in this world, a thread of plot that offers emotional, intellectual, spiritual and psychological conflicts galore. There's such an honesty to Moore's performance that she's equally believable exhibiting both a childlike curiosity and asking the hardcore questions that a young woman asks of those around her.

Where Ingenue lags just a bit is in its important yet secondary storyline of the ethical dilemmas that created Rosie and, in all likelihood, others just like her. This storyline feels like it needs to be either more fully developed or relegated to a backburner, with too many moments when it felt almost cartoonish against the backdrop of a very real and heartfelt story.

Fortunately, Chaplin does spend a good majority of the film's 78-minute running time emphasizing the very special world of Rosie, which when Ingenue is at its very best exudes the sort of charm one felt while watching Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl.

While there's no question that Ingenue is a low-budget indie and there are a couple times when its production values reflect the harsh reality of the microcinema world, it's also the kind of film that those who appreciate the truly indie scene will embrace with its emotional resonance and intellectual curiosity. For those who are familiar with Chaplin's work, Ingenue feels like a tremendous weaving together of both her passion and professionalism.

In addition to the major players here, young thespians Kami Leach and Jamie Angel do a nice job as the Owens children while Chris Spurgin is also solid in a supporting role. 

David Kemp's original music is an absolute highlight for the film and, quite wisely, it's been made available as a soundtrack. Dylan Cashbaugh's lensing does a terrific job of capturing the film's heart and humanity, while Valerie Pearce's set design takes almost no budget and gives these characters a world in which it feels like they truly live. 

For more information on Ingenue, including how to pre-order the DVD and its upcoming premiere in Indianapolis, visit the Karmic Courage Productions website and be sure to give the film a vote of confidence on its Facebook page! 

© Written by Richard Propes 
The Independent Critic