DANDELION Review: The Road to Deciding Your Identity

KiKi Layne and Thomas Doherty star in writer/director Nicole Riegel's dextrous, musically-themed film.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
DANDELION Review: The Road to Deciding Your Identity

If John Carney went West, he might have made this picture.

The film opens Friday, July 12, in select theaters, via IFC Films. Visit the official site for more information.

Known professionally as Dandelion, singer/songwriter Teresa (KiKi Layne) storms out of her home one night in Cincinnati, Ohio, and heads to South Dakota. What might compel the young Black woman to travel more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) to a bastion of white people gathering at Bike Week?

Conjured up by writer, director, and songwriter Nicole Riegel, who previously made the blue-collar, set in Ohio drama Holler (2020), the opening scenes establish that Teresa is a promising musician who is caring for her mother, who, apparently, needs financial and practical assistance, but is none too happy about it. Teresa has a part-time, poorly-paid gig playing at a hotel, yet wonders if she will ever be free to pursue a career, as revealed when a bartender friend points her to a possible gig at Bike Week in South Dakota.

A blow-up argument with her mother prompts Teresa to hit the road. At the large South Dakota gathering, she is not the only Black person there, although she is defnitely in a tiny minority in a town overwhelmed by white motorcyle people clothed in black leather and blue denim, one of whom cruelly swipes her bag as she starts her audition for a paid gig.

A white person comes to her aid, but it's not just any white person, it's a handsome Scottish guitar player named Casey (Thomas Doherty), who has returned to visit his former musical comrades and, perhaps, spark some flames with Teresa.

The set-up, contrived as it may sound, unfolds easily. First, because of the animated and convincing performance by KiKi Layne. (By the way, she's a native of Cincinnati, Ohio.) We never doubt that she is a talented musician and singer. We also never doubt that she is a devoted daughter to an obstinate mother who casts doubt on her talents.

Second, director Nicole Riegel, together with cinematographer Lauren Guiteras, editor Milena Z. Petrovic, production designer Maren H. Jensen, and their teams, create a constantly moving environment that always looks magical. The locations are gorgeously shot, and the gently swaying camera moves into positions that capture the action from the best possible angles.

Dandelion is aptly titled, because the film is about the character, not about what may or may not develop between Teresa and Casey, or between Teresa and anyone else, not even her mother. Instead, it focuses on her development, and the choices she makes at a turning point in her life, and how it informs her character.

We all face turning points in our lives; sometimes it's easy to see in advance, and sometimes it's not apparent until it's already in our rear-view mirror. With beauty and grace, Dandelion marvelously captures how one woman maneuvered down a long road and decided who she wanted to be and where she wanted to go.


  • Nicole Riegel
  • Nicole Riegel
  • Thomas Doherty
  • KiKi Layne
  • Melanie Nicholls-King
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KiKi LayneNicole RiegelThomas DohertyMelanie Nicholls-KingDramaRomance

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