Friday, August 12, 2016

Movie Review A Light Beneath Their Feet (2016)

A Light Beneath Their Feet (2016) - Directed by Valerie Weiss; Written by Moira McMahon; Starring Taryn Manning, Madison Davenport, Kali Hawk.

By Kenny Howell

Through the first season of Orange is the New Black, a waffled back and forth whether I wanted to continue watching.

Just when I thought I would want to stop, Taryn Manning's Pennsatucky, the ultra religious, unstable inmate that saw the lead character Piper as a threat, was what kept me watching. Whether it was her story of her brother eating a bald eagle, or her endless sermons, Manning (Experimenter) perfectly encapsulated crazy, but left that bit just under the surface that made you sympathize with her, knowing something made her that way. That she had a raw deal at some point in time.

That same dynamic is present A Light Beneath Their Feet. Manning is playing something different, a woman named Gloria who suffers from bipolar disorder. It's so severe that she needs pretty frequent surveillance, and unfortunately that falls to her daughter, a high school senior named Beth. Played by Madison Davenport, Beth must keep her mom under control, while also planning her life, which includes where she wants to go to college. She has been accepted into Northwestern, which is obviously an excellent school close to home, but really wants to attend UCLA. The reason she gives is the weather, and the overall pleasantness of southern California, but really it is just to escape her mother, which makes her feel extremely guilty.

In addition to that, Beth, not the most popular girl in school, is traversing the world of dating. She is interested in a young man that transferred to her school, an outsider because he had a relationship with a teacher at his previous school.

Gloria finds out about Beth wanting to go to California without her, and doesn't handle it well. That spins everything out of control, and puts even more strain on Beth.

A Light Beneath Their Feet is strongest when it focuses on Gloria and Beth, and lets Manning steal the show. It really hammers home juts how hard it is for Beth, who seems like a wounded animal at times. It seems like the only way to keep Gloria under control is too just wrap your arms around her and hold her tightly.

The film doesn't quite work when it focuses on Beth's romantic interest, which is where the title comes from. It is a little phrase they say to each other, and I don't think it quite connects like it intended to, but the actors are good enough to keep it from being too maudlin.

Still, even with that, Manning's performance keeps it grounded and real, and makes this a little indie to seek out.

Rating: ***

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