MOVIE REVIEW: Princess Cyd



Official City and State, Out-look, and U.S. Indies program selection of the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival


Through countless other films, we have seen what has become the prototypical coming-of-age story and its sometimes tiresome ingredients.  All too often, heavy doses of angst and selfishness cause youths to clash with the adults in charge and rebel against a societal setting of established norms.  The list of the genre’s best is littered with that repetitive rhetoric.  

For a little film like Princess Cyd to come along and reverse that usual bombast is something truly distinctive and provocative.  Confidently and bearing all the sincerity possible, Stephen Cone’s film strides towards the growth to be found through unity and empathy instead of clash and rebellion.  The film screened as part of the City and State, Out-look, and U.S. Indies program at the recent 53rd Chicago International Film Festival and is playing this week at the Gene Siskel Film Center downtown.

Newcomer Jessie Pinnick is Cyd Loughlin, an athletic 16-year-old teen from her school’s soccer team who is off for her summer vacation.  Cyd lost her mother to crime at a young age, causing a dearth of female cultivation.  Her morose single father has arranged for Cyd to room for the summer with her aunt Miranda Ruth (Rebecca Spence from Contagion and Man of Steel).  Cyd’s mother was Miranda’s cherished sister and she remains in the home they grew up in.  Miranda is an acclaimed Chicago novelist known for mixing an aware-yet-grounded sense of religious faith into her writing.

Liberally single and childless herself, Miranda is more than a little confounded about what to do with a teen presence like Cyd.  Inability to relate is their starting block.  Cyd arrives at a somewhat uncultured level of refinement lower than Miranda’s usual academic circles of acquaintances.  Meanwhile, the longing teen pieces together descriptions and clues about her mom to fill in her own memory for meaning and commonality.

LESSON #1: DON’T CALL IT “GIRL TALK.”  CALL IT “ADULT TALK”--  Connection between the two women becomes the challenge.  Cyd and Miranda might be different in age, but find themselves at a similar crossroads of passion.  The frankness and openness of their talks are far from typical taboo and gossip.  It’s mature conversation and a confluence of ideals that any adult, regardless of gender role, should engage in.  Both parties are bettered by it.

Nevertheless, Cyd is a girl who represents the youthful vigor Miranda lacks or has forgotten, especially when Cyd develops a passionate relationship with a local barista named Katie (Malic White).  Through Cyd’s summer of affection, shot with serene cinematography by Zoe White and pulsed by Heather McIntosh’s cello-and-electronics score mix, Miranda begins to examine her own potential as their familial bonds extend further with shared quality time.

LESSON #2: THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-DISCOVERY AT ANY AGE-- Pinnick and Spence are absolutely phenomenal in their roles to buck typical coming-of-age positions.  Rather than watching strife, jealousy, and misaligned comeuppance, Princess Cyd crafts prose to show fully blooming truthful and poignant parallels of both independence and interdependence meeting with relatable trepidation giving way to respect.  Even in the height of sexual discovery, both performers bring a range of assured poise and delicate beauty to their characters’ emotional undercurrents.

Bright as the summer is sunny, thoughtful as the literature being referenced, and raw as the emotions running through it, Princess Cyd is a pertinent and inspiring triumph from writer and director Stephen Cone (Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party).  His character depth on the page and observant eye behind the camera step into these narrative lives with care weighing more than intrusion.  We are privy to private moments, yet welcomed in for sake of common ground and personal growth.   The sublime polish and volume of empathy amid this film’s themes is utterly magnetic.

LESSON #3: LIKE WHAT YOU LIKE-- We have assuredly entered an era of society where sexual orientations are becoming more celebrated and gender roles losing their stereotypes.  Princess Cyd gives a place to applaud that progress.  Be into what you are into without shame.  Extend your self-discovery and search for the different sources of loves for your life.  Find joy and unique happiness.