Princess Cyd Film Review :
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Eager to escape life with her depressive single father, 16-year-old athlete Cyd Loughlin visits her novelist aunt in Chicago over the summer. While there, she falls for a girl in the neighborhood, even as she and her aunt gently challenge each other in the realms of sex and spirit.
An extended scene about halfway through Stephen Cone‘s “Princess Cyd” is a perfect illustration of what he does so well as a director. A group of friends gather twice a month to eat, drink, and read excerpts of literature to one another. Everyone comes with something prepared. One person reads the famous final pages of James Joyce’s The Dead. An old woman reads Emily Dickinson’s poem starting with the line “There’s a certain Slant of light.” Excerpts from James Baldwin, Thoreau … In the room is a palpable space of intent group focus, the scene perfectly evoking the pleasure of the ritual for everyone involved.
Cone captures the atmosphere of groups, and groups in particular contexts, the fluctuating alchemy of messy collectives. His gift with ensembles puts him in rare company with directors like Jonathan Demme and Jean Renoir, directors comfortable with sprawl, “mess”, letting things develop as they come. Cone treats each moment with patience—stepping back, allowing it to breathe, find itself. The actors in his films—not just in “Princess Cyd” but his previous features (“The Wise Kids” and “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party“)—make us believe these people have known one another forever.
Whereas in “The Wise Kids” and “Henry Gamble,” the ensemble is the star, “Princess Cyd” features a main character as the focal point, a strong, freckled, teenage girl named Cyd (short for Cydney), who goes to stay with her aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence) for three weeks. Miranda, a famous author, still lives in the Chicago home where she and her sister (Cyd’s mother, now dead) grew up. Why Miranda hasn’t been a part of Cyd’s life at all isn’t revealed until near the end of the film, but it’s a a buzzing subtext.