Timothy Driscoll, Alisha Seaton, Alexandra Swarens, Amanda Reed, Jeff Davis
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Edgar Michael Bravo
No Restrictions Entertainment
"Mother's Red Dress" Review
“Men can be so kind one minute, so cruel the next. I’ve never met a man who wasn’t that way. Things have never worked out for me, maybe they will for you”
There's always hope.
That's the idea, anyway. But you know and I know that's not always the case. Sometimes, cycles don't get broken and sometimes abuse goes on for generations.
There's always hope. Yeah. Right.
Paul (Newcomer Timothy Driscoll) is a young man with a secret ... a secret even he doesn't remember. Suffering from amnesia, Paul has left his home and landed in a small Southern California town where he is trying to piece together his past after witnessing his mother (Alisha Seaton, The Fourth Kind) murder her abusive boyfriend. Wandering into a coffee shop, Paul encounters Brenda (Amanda Reed, Good in Bed) and Ashley (Alexandra Swarens). While Brenda, an obviously wounded young woman, takes an initial liking to Paul, Paul feels an instant connection with a more resistant Ashley. Despite her resistance, the attraction between Paul and Ashley grows and the two begin a relationship.
Then, the phone call.
The story that unfolds is both gripping and intimate, a deeply moving story about one young man's struggle to not just deal with his past but to somehow find a way to transcend it. “Men can be so kind one minute, so cruel the next. I’ve never met a man who wasn’t that way. Things have never worked out for me, maybe they will for you”
The cycle of abuse continues. It finds a way, almost magically, to permeate through every cell of your being. Abuse becomes your reality, your identity, your definition.
Unless. Perhaps. Somehow, someway. Someone or something breaks through your trauma-induced reality and builds a safe harbor of redemption and hope.
The full power of Mother's Red Dress doesn't really hit until the film's waning moments, when everything you've seen, heard and experienced gels together and the life that has been slowly deconstructed by abuse somehow, someway begins to make painful sense.
The second film from No Restrictions Entertainment, Mother's Red Dress continues the company's commitment towards making entertaining movies that matter and address contemporary social issues. While marketability is important, there's no question that the folks at No Restrictions Entertainment emphasize artistic integrity and authenticity. Mother's Red Dress tells a difficult story but tells the story incredibly well.
Newcomer Timothy Driscoll doesn't give a mesmerizing performance as Paul, but that's a compliment. There's an inherent drama in a story this stark and realistic, and Driscoll's quieter and more disciplined performance as Paul complements the story rather than overwhelms it. While Driscoll doesn't exactly underplay Paul, his calm and almost placid facade provides the perfect foundation upon which his story can be built.
Driscoll is surrounded by quite the gifted ensemble cast, as well, including a complex and satisfying turn by Alisha Seaton, whose performance as Laura reveals a woman whose full story and motives aren't fully revealed until the story winds down. It's a tremendous credit to Seaton that we remain drawn into Laura's story despite never quite being certain of her story. Alexandra Swarens is terrific as Ashley, while stage and film vet Amanda Reed, as Brenda, takes what could have easily been a one-note role and creates a surprisingly moving secondary storyline that would have been more effective had it been developed just a tad more.
Bravo, along with producer John Paul Rice, have proven both an ability and a willingness to stretch the limits of technology in the construction of their lower-budget efforts. This approach provides solid proof of Bravo's immense talent, though it does lead to the occasionally distracting moment when the film's budgetary constraints become obvious. In this film, such moments come courtesy of 1-2 flashback sequences and a particularly distracting scene early in the film between Paul and his mother that includes a brief slo-mo effect that mutes the impact rather than heightening it. While it's refreshing to see a filmmaker who takes risks, both in terms of material and technology, this feels like a time when stressing the performance over the visual effect may very well have had a stronger impact.
D.P. Jeven Dovey's lensing is top notch, however, and does a nice job of weaving together both the dark and light aspects of the film. Also, Bravo beautifully incorporates an emotionally resonant original score from Christine Wu and Kevin Doucette along with a great soundtrack featuring Mehdi Safa and the band Parliament of Owls.
It's quite the challenge to create an entertaining yet honest and authentic film when your subject matter includes domestic violence, child abuse and mental health issues. Yet, somehow, Bravo has managed to create a film that confronts the abusive cycle without, much like our lead character, allowing the film itself to become defined by it. There's an underlying faith in the power of humanity to heal, to get things right and to turn it around that seemingly slips through the cracks like the defiant flowers that somehow seem to rise from broken sidewalks in neighborhoods in cities everywhere.
Mother's Red Dress will make you think. Mother's Red Dress will make you feel. Most of all, Mother's Red Dress will make you realize that everything you do matters... every action, every word, every thought put out to the universe and to those you love.
You matter. I matter.
Mother's Red Dress is a film that matters.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic