VOD Review - Princess Cyd

This film premiered at the 2017 Maryland Film Festival. It got a very limited, theatrical release, playing at other festivals before getting a DVD release in December. It's been available online ever since then. It appeared on Netflix in February and sat in my queue for a month or two. It comes from Chicago-based filmmaker, Stephen Cone. Cone has directed several movies, but this is his third feature to get national release, mostly due to Wolfe Video, the oldest and largest distributor of LGBT films. This movie as well as Cone's two previous features have been intersections of church communities or religious social groups with expressions of homosexuality, sometimes the inherent conflict of those intersections or simply the confluence of those two things. This movie is somewhat in that same vein, but it steps away somewhat and becomes a more free-floating character study of two women. One of whom might be queer and how her presence opens up or affects the other.

Rebecca Spence (Crisis and Boss) stars as Miranda Ruth, an author who bares a bit of a resemblance to Amy Brenneman. She's a professor as well at the University of Chicago. In her spare time, she assists a male colleague named Anthony with a book he's writing. She may have some romantic feelings for Anthony, but these feelings are the farthest things from her mind, as she lives a rather quiet life with no need for that kind of romance. If she's having any kind of romance, it's with books and literature. Every once and awhile, she'll have reading parties where she and literati friends will sit, eat, drink and speak the prose and poetry of their favorite writers like James Baldwin. It's not like an elitist or snooty thing. One can tell that Miranda has these parties because she and her friends truly have a love or joy of reading. It's completely sincere.

Jessie Pinnick (Chicago Fire and Shameless) co-stars as Cyd Loughlin, the 16-year-old niece of Miranda. Cyd is from Columbia, South Carolina where she enjoys playing soccer and is a bit of an amazing athlete. She comes to visit her maternal aunt Miranda during the summer for a two-week vacation. The movie takes place in that time period. Cyd has no clue how much into reading and books her aunt is. Cyd is not much into literature herself. She's more into running, laying out in the sun, smoking marijuana and possibly having sex.

Cyd is young and is more into physical pleasures or sensations. This is in contrast to her aunt who is more into mental pleasures or intellectual pursuits. What Cone brilliantly does is that he doesn't laud one woman's pleasures over the other. He doesn't condemn Miranda for what brings her joy. Nor does he condemn Cyd for what brings her joy. He doesn't even draw the conclusion that their ages or geographic circumstances have drawn them to their particular pleasures, even though those circumstances might have done so. These are just these two women as they are. There's a little bit of butting heads for drama's sake but otherwise this movie simply presents these two beautiful women as they are.

One could argue that Cone is trying to make some commentary on the two generations. He could perhaps be pitting Generation X against Millennials though not forcefully. If so, this isn't a battle. It's a pillow fight. It's my speculation though that Miranda is Generation X. I wouldn't suggest she's older, but if this is a generational exemplum, I wouldn't argue that Miranda's values or outlook are unique to Generation X but a shorthand for anyone in her age-range or higher.

Cyd's values or outlook, however, are more indicative stereotypically of people her age or younger. It just so happens that her age group is currently Millennials. One of her values, which might be so indicative, includes the fluidity of sexuality. We see Cyd have sexual attractions to a boy, a very cute boy named Ridley, played by Matthew Quattrocki. We also see Cyd have sexual attractions to a very cute girl named Katie Sauter, played by Malic White.

There's no judgment toward her attractions to either boy or girl, but the movie suggests her preference toward Katie. As a result, we see a beautiful, if brief romance where Cone finds some sweet and also seriously affecting moments that range from a rooftop dance as movie extras to a possible sexual assault. It's a romance that isn't meant to be as profound as the one in Blue is the Warmest Color (2013), but it was lovely just the same.

Tyler Ross (The Wise Kids and Nate & Margaret) is an actor that Cone frequently uses. He has a minor role here where he's almost unrecognizable. He's a great, little actor, but the real standout performances are from Spence and Pinnick, particularly Spence whose character of Miranda does experience a slight awakening. It's not an awakening with which Cone hits us over the head. It's subtle and nuanced, which is the mark of a realistic, genuine and humanistic filmmaker.

Running TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.

Available on Netflix.


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