TIFF 2012 Review: Yellow
The TIFF 2012 premiere of Nick Cassavetes‘ Yellow was packed to the rafters on Friday night. Pretty Clever Film Gal had to sit in the second row, in front of a screen so large I had to turn my head from left to right to watch a character walk across a room. Was it worth it? You bet it was!
What we have here is a filmmaker putting it all out there and throwing caution to the wind. Yellow is wild, inventive, and ultimately, dazzling in it’s visual and narrative breadth. The film follows Mary (Heather Wahlquist, who also has a co-writing credit), a beautiful young woman who hallucinates her way through life. She has a confidante in a man who’s who her shrink, her doctor, her father – it’s hard to tell. As a matter of fact, as the movie rolls on it’s pretty tough to tease out what is real and what is imagined in Mary’s life. After she had sex with a student’s father in closet during parent’s night, she’s fired from her substitute teaching job. Mary needs a self-proclaimed fresh start, but – puzzlingly so – drives straight into her past. Her family is quite a bit more messed up than she is, as it turns out. Ultimately, Mary finds a temporary salvation in the arms of a man, a situation we’re led to believe is part of a pattern.
It’s almost impossible to do justice to this movie with a plot synopsis. The true power of Yellow derives from the vivid and surreal scenes that derive from Mary’s hallucinations. When confronted with a screaming panel of fellow teachers/harpies demanding to know if she did indeed have sex in a closet during parent’s night, Mary dreams herself on-stage in a sort of Edward Albee like production, complete with a voyeuristic audience just beyond the footlights. To add another layers of complexity to this tableau, all of the character’s in this imagined play break scene to take a tour around the backstage, providing both reprimand and counsel to actress Mary’s for forgetting her lines.
These peeks into Mary’s inner life offer up than a neat factor, though. The flights of fancy in Yellow are emotional exposition of the finest sort. While a lesser script or less confidant director would provide a lot of talk talk talk to indicate the emotional tenor, Cassavetes transforms Mary’s boorish family into, well, asses and pigs and chickens. Countless dramatic products will strive to paint the family dinner as a hellish nightmare, but Cassavetes just boldly makes it so. And this little glimpse into what I (think?) is essentially a bi-polar mind goes a long way to explaining why sufferers of that particular malady resist tempering it. Half of Mary’s delusions are beautiful and joyous, even if they do end up hurtling her into oncoming traffic.
Yellow is a pretty brave act of filmmaking, and Heather Wahlquist is an actress that we should really see more of. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Yellow sees theatrical release. Cassavetes and crew completely deserve it, as does the wider movie going audience.
Images from Yellow