Directed by Stephen Cone
Stephen Cone’s “Princess Cyd” is a low-key coming-of-age drama about a 16-year-old who, carrying the weight of a family trauma on her shoulders, decided at some point to explore and taste life in order to polish up her self-knowledge.
The blossoming Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) arrives in Chicago from South Carolina to spend a couple of weeks with her aunt, Miranda Ruth (Rebecca Spence), a celebrated novelist who, despite her neatly organized life, willingly hosts her. This is a golden opportunity for the young girl to take a break from her depressive father, who keeps struggling after the tragic death of his wife and son.
Establishing an invigorating connection, the two women talk about the past and also open up about their current lives. While sunbathing in the backyard, Miranda confesses she’s too immersed in her writing to have sex, which doesn’t happen in a handful of years. Nearly in shock with the revelation, Cyd, whose honesty and spontaneity are wonderful, discloses that she feels attracted to Katie (Malic White), the boyish female barista of the coffee shop at the corner. She got pleased with the fact that her supportive aunt didn’t make a big deal about her being attracted to another girl. In truth, she even thought it was natural. The admiration becomes evident and is reciprocal: Miranda rejoices with the intensity of that presence, whose youth re-awakens some of the simplest yet almost forgotten pleasures of life, whereas Cyd discovers her aunt’s books, ascertaining the literary circle that surrounds her, and also benefitting from her maturity, advice, and spirituality.
Like in real life, not everything is linear, and troublesome moments sometimes follow the good ones. It happened when Cyd and Ridley (Matthew Quattrocki), a handsome gardener neighbor, smoke a joint together and then lock themselves in a room over the course of a poetry reading session. Also, when Katie is almost raped by her brother’s drunken friend, or when Miranda gives Cyd an important lesson when her words and tone went too far.
The most curious aspect of “Princess Cyd” is that Miranda grows a much more interesting and sympathetic character than her niece, a reality reinforced through the self-imposed impasse created in the relationship with Anthony (James Vincent Meredith), a still-legally-married journalist friend whose admiration for her is not limited to the intellectual.
Resplendently photographed by Zoe White, who assures that every frame has a cozy tonal warmth, the film doesn’t try to be more than what it is, and that is something to be praised in the first place. Even when we get lost in poetic detail or even momentarily immersed in condescending dialogue, we feel encouraged by Spence and Pinnick’s sweet performances.
Showing a strong propensity for coming-of-age stories, Stephen Cone still couldn't match “The Wise Kids”, but this new effort is a valid example on how two completely different persons can mark the lives of each other forever in a positive way. They do that by giving and receiving affection in crucial phases of their existence.