Greetings again from the darkness. It’s a bit of a rough start. The armed robbery of a convenience store doesn’t come across as menacing or threatening, but rather almost comical as the burly dude retreats, leaving the ski-capped (not masked) woman behind to face the cops. The scene does however set the stage and background for that woman’s story. Kathy (Tanna Frederick) is sent to jail where she is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Transferred to a treatment center, Kathy is given medications for control, and released early.
Kathy seeks redemption and normalcy as she heads back to her family. The reception is lukewarm at best, and her now 12 year old daughter Cori (Riley Behr) outright rejects her. Cori has been raised by her father Junior (Joel West) and Kathy’s parents, and is now the ultimate overachieving adolescent who wants nothing to do with her ex-con mother. In the midst of Kathy’s homecoming, her beloved grandfather Walter (Tom Bower) has had a heart attack on his pig farm, and now the family is trying to have him certified as “not competent” so they can take over his land (a generational farm). Kathy is disgusted by this, and wants nothing more than to give her grandfather what he wants most … a chance to live out his final days on the same land where his father died.
With no shortage of awkward conversations or situations, Kathy struggles to acclimate back into her family and small Iowa hometown. The best and most poignant scenes are with Kathy and her grandfather, and with Kathy and Cori. Kathy relates to her grandfather, as he’s being labeled just as she has been. In his case, he carries the weight of old age, while she carries the stigma of mental illness. The conversations between Kathy and Cori are more intimate, as a mother and daughter try to reconnect.
Director Ron Vignone and writer Richard Schinnow do a nice job creating small town authenticity, and proving that family dysfunction is certainly not limited to big city life. Cinematographer Christopher C Pearson captures some nice shots of beautiful Iowa farm land, and mixes it with the often uncomfortable family moments. Veteran actor Tom Bower is a real standout here, and we ultimately wish he had more screen time. Ms. Frederick captures the essence of her character, and faces the challenges of those burdened with the mental illness stigma. We should appreciate the inclusion of Kathy encouraging her grandfather to write down his memories and experiences for future generations. It’s a valuable step that too few folks take.
Available on VOD December 29th from Gravitas Ventures.