We initially meet Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) playing on the field of her high-school soccer team and on the cusp of deciding if she wants to go to Northwestern for college. Her father sets up a visit for the end of summer at her aunt Miranda's (Spence), allowing her a chance to get away, and learn a bit about her potential new city. Although this visit is about her future, the past has a funny way of being present in our lives. For Cyd, her mothers passing was an earth shattering experience, even if she wasn't awake to witness the tragedy, when her mentally ill brother took his life and their mother's, Cyd still lives life guarded as close as she can. When she spends time with her aunt however, both ladies will find out they had a lot of demons to shed and a friendship to rekindle.
What I always love about the work of Stephen Cone is his honesty. Everything on the screen is natural, from the settings, the makeup, to the language used by the characters. You see all of Cone's qualities through a character like Miranda's. The performance from Spence is spot on, playing a woman that is submerged in her writing and teaching at the University of Chicago, while losing her sense of self in the process. Cyd wakes her mind up, with discussions about sexuality, giving her courage to lay out in a bathing suit, or examine her possible attraction to co-worker Anthony (James Vincent Meredith). Their bond grows strong and realize that what they've been missing in life is one another.
The other plot line of Princess Cyd is the exploration of Cyd's sexuality. Cone has never been afraid to open his audience to our world where people discover who they are both inside and out. Cyd has left her sort-of boyfriend behind and meets an adorable woman at a cafe named Katie (Malic White). The two of them hit it off, sharing an impromptu dance at Katie's apartment, and revealing sides of themselves that few know about. Katie opens Cyd up, but her fears creep back in a party her aunt throws, having too much to drink, makes-out with a guest, and has a small disagreement with Miranda. It's not a massive blow-up, but it turns into a learning experience, one that shows the power of family.
Princess Cyd is a beautiful independent film, with spectacular performances from Spence and Pinnick. Stephen Cone is officially one of the strongest and thought provoking directors in film today. I truly loved seeing a film like Princess Cyd, because it truly grasps the nature of humans, who are looking for a connection in life, and it makes me proud to see a director who knows how to capture the beautiful neighborhoods of Chicago. There have been plenty of good movies this year, but in so many ways, Princess Cyd takes the crown.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: PRINCESS CYD
STARRING: REBECCA SPENCE; JESSIE PINNICK; JAMES VINCENT MEREDITH; MALIC WHITE
DIRECTED BY: STEPHEN CONE
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It's important for critics to notice when a great writer/director comes along and Stephen Cone has proved that he should be considered in those current ranks. In his last film, the spectacular indie gem Henry Gamble's Birthday Party, he focused on the title character, a young gay man, dealing with pressures in life, the expectations of going to college, his family, and the various personalities surrounding him on his special day. Princess Cyd continues to focus on the complications of growing up, dealing with ones family history, and coming of age, in a time when life can be extremely confusing. With a pair of fantastic performances from Rebecca Spence and newcomer Jessie Pinnick, Princess Cyd is a complex and beautiful film, worthy of royal praise.