Written By & Directed By: Michael Edgar Bravo
Mother’s Red Dress is the next feature from the collaborative team of writer/director Edgar Michael Bravo and producer, John Paul Rice. Their previous film, One Hour Fantasy Girl, was an incredible tale of the hardships of runaways in the deceitful land of Hollywood that swallows up young hopefuls looking for a better life. For me, One Hour Fantasy Girl is the better of the two although they follow some of the same themes and haunting pasts continuing to hold our characters back.
The film centers around Paul (Driscoll), a young man trying to start over after a traumatic event at home. His dad left him and his mother when he was only six years old. He has tried to be there for his mother as much as he could, but she has continued to struggle more and more in her life, men usually being the center of that, being both initially caring yet truly deadly. This progresses to a point where it’s clear there is no going back.
After that, he decides he needs to go somewhere new, get a new job, maybe get in to college and try to find if a new life with less damage and destruction is a possibility for him. Paul seems to particularly cling to a local coffee shop where a girl he quickly forms a crush on works. She’s hesitant, but he convinces her to give him a chance and give him a tour of the local college. She’s his main focus as things progress between them. His happiness can only last so long as his family puts all this to a stop. His mother tells him she’s sick; she only has a few months to live. Paul’s father has finally agreed to be a part of their lives, which doesn’t sit too well with him. He feels like he is being dragged back in, but he has no choice. He has to face things once and for all.
The best thing about Mother’s Red Dress is the mother and the incredible, Alexandra Swarens. She gives an outstanding, raw, and meaningful performance. She carries so much emotion and realism, we can really feel what she’s going through as heartbreaking it is as we realize she has more strength than she realizes and we desperately want her to hold on to that and fully fight back to set things right. Even the small things went so far with her. I really would have liked her to have been the main character although I realize what the film ended up being about at the end isn’t as centered on her despite her being a key component. I wanted to know more though; get deeper inside her troubles, motivations, and complicated psyche.
Swarens outshines everyone else acting wise, almost too much so. I really had trouble really feeling for any other character. A big part of this is there just wasn’t the depth in the performances there needed to be. Most people were pretty hollow without much range or real humanity. It seemed like they were mostly going through the motions of things without bringing any type of life to their characters or the world they were in. Especially for Timothy Driscoll, it made it hard for me to have any investment in Paul, who’s the main character. That was a huge issue that held me back from really being able to experience all the movie was going for. The romance seemed a little rushed and I just didn’t believe he was as consumed and in love with her as he seemed to think he was. If he simply viewed her as an escape I could see that, but there really didn’t seem to even be much battling of dark feelings from his past. His features are very stone faced and one dimensional, which makes it harder to understand what the character is supposed to be going through. He does shield the truth from himself for quite some time, but even when the final confronting comes out the realism and emotion in the realization is not there.
Towards the end, things get a bit confused. There are some major twists and things are presented in a very different mentality than they were before. The intentions behind them and the lifelong hardships this brings out definitely spoke to me. It shows the power of what that can do to a person. It just felt a little disjointed and sudden. I admire and am intrigued with the very real life horrific issues, emotions, and very human struggles that the film is centered around. In the case of the mother this spoke to me and made me yearn for more of her story. Unfortunately, most of the performances don’t portray this with the deserved mentality and emotions. In most cases, the execution is holding all of the potential back. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Again, one character is the embodiment of this and is radiating tragic truth in so many ways, this just isn’t the case across the board. Having these meaningful intentions at hand has worked wonders in the past for this team and I will still be interested to see their future endeavors.