Where Is Kyra? (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Michelle Pfeiffer’s best performance in years almost single-handedly makes Where Is Kyra? worth watching.
The film’s stunning visual look, slicing in and out of shadows and light, is yet another testament to the great work of cinematographer Bradford Young.
A moving, uncomfortable drama you just cannot take your eyes off of.
So, the word bleak comes to mind. Pfeiffer’s Kyra goes through a lot in this movie and it can be hard watching someone continually do the wrong thing time and time again.
The movie’s presentation is masterfully composed, but that comes at something of a cost for feeling connected and engaged with the content and the dilemmas which develop.
A movie which will undoubtedly frustrate viewers with its approach to a story that seems to be tough to believe at times.
We do not get a truly illuminated close-up of Michelle Pfeiffer until about the 70-minute mark in Andrew Dosunmu’s Where Is Kyra?, a quiet, sparse story of desperation and loneliness that finds Pfeiffer breathe shallow air into the lungs of a middle-aged woman, reeling from the recent loss of her mother.
After a divorce and downsizing with her job, Kyra was left with no choice but to move back home to care for her ailing mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd). Caring for her around-the-clock, she uses her downtime to try and re-enter the job market, submitting applications repeatedly, hoping to land an interview. In one instance, she concludes, smiling and shaking hands, only to knock over items on her potential new employer’s desk, resulting in embarrassment for all involved.
When her mother does pass away, Ruth gets through the funeral and is left unsure of what to do next. Dosunmu, in collaboration with the incredible cinematographer Bradford Young, uses slices of light, a noticeable distance, and imposing darkness to engulf Kyra, as she struggles to know what to do. At times, she is positioned far left or right in the frame, out of sorts, appearing fearful of the space around her. Looming behind her? An ever-present darkness which seems on the verge of lurching forward and swallowing her up at any moment.
Kyra’s efforts to avoid giving up, lead her to a bar where she meets Doug (Keifer Sutherland), a barfly of sorts who has found an inconsistent rhythm to follow in an effort to keep moving through life. Together, a romance of sorts springs up and soon, Kyra’s life begins to involve Doug more and more.
Dosunmu’s last film, 2013’s powerful Mother of George, shared the story of a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn, who learn that they cannot conceive, and wrestle with embedded cultural traditions and more modern ideas on how to remedy the issue. The story and delicate photography found in that film allowed us to feel every bit of anguish, pain, and empathy present in the young couple’s conflict.
Here, Dosunmu and Young capture Kyra’s struggle vividly, with Pfeiffer amplifying the story co-written by Dosunmu and Darci Picoult. The actress, leading a film for the first time in several years, is simply stunning, with a performance unlike anything she has ever really given before. She appears broken, emotionally defeated, almost wearing her disappointments like badges because she can no longer hide them.
As great as Pfeiffer is, she succeeds almost in spite of a movie that is almost too resolute, too distancing, and too reserved. If the idea is to wallow with Kyra, we are there because Pfeiffer creates such a captivating character. The story, also, is a rather simple one. And even when Kyra’s desperation moves front and center to the crux of the story, though we may have empathy, we are held back from a deeper, emotional connection to what’s unfolding before us, because Dosunmu has kept us at an arm’s length for much of the time.
For those struggling emotionally, the paradox of too much darkness or too much light can prove equally as frightening, and almost too much to bear. Where Is Kyra? paints this picture all too clearly. We have a vulnerable woman moving through a series of personal setbacks, sliding towards a life of panic, anxiety, and escalating uncertainty.
All Kyra wants to do is get through to the next day and matter to someone. When she has it, will she squander it or protect it? Grow or self-destruct? As we watch Kyra’s story play out, we see a film looking for answers to those same questions, and perhaps a little worried about what it might just find out.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland, Suzanne Shepherd, Sam Robards.
Director: Andrew Dosumnu
Written by: Darci Picoult (screenplay); Darci Picoult, Andrew Dosumnu (story)
Release Date: April 6, 2018
Paladin/Great Point Media