I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS (Leah Meyerhoff)
This film, one of the festival's two opening night films, deftly transcends the clichés often inherent in Meyerhoff’s chosen modes of storytelling – the coming-of-age story and the road movie – by its intriguing use of autobiography and its affectingly personal feel. Davina (Natalia Dyer) is a teenager stuck in a sleepy town, having to care for her disabled mother (Toni Meyerhoff, the director’s mother).
One day she catches sight of Sterling (Peter Vack), an older punk rocker and skateboarder whom she instantly identifies as the man of her dreams. They soon hook up, and she loses her virginity to Sterling. Although he is initially cold towards her afterward, he soon warms to her again, and they set off on a road trip, the destination being “anywhere but here.”
Davina often retreats into a fantasy world of unicorns, princesses and dragons (rendered in the film by whimsical stop-motion animation), but as they travel together and their money dwindles, and Sterling reveals darker and more volatile sides of himself, Davina longs to return home. Strong performances by both Dyer and Vack, as well as its appealingly dreamy atmosphere, prevent this film from being unbearably precious, and instead render it a compelling portrait of a young girl’s emotional rites of passage.
(May 30, 8pm)