Listed by Vanity Fair as one of the best films of 2017, Princess Cyd is a beautiful coming of age movie that strays from cliché and instead charms its audience with subtlety and warmth. A study of the relationship between an unfamiliar niece and aunt, the film sees 16-year-old Cyd sent to stay with her Aunt Miranda over the summer, a renowned novelist living in Chicago, whereupon she meets local barista Katie. As Cyd delights in discovering her sexuality, so do her and Miranda share with each other the separate pleasures of their inter-generational lives.
Filmmaker Stephen Cone misses the mark on introducing the more sentimental tone of the film with his series of misused cinematographic techniques. Ironically, the film manages to avoid becoming overly romanticised in its entirety despite Cone’s overuse of out of focus, slow motion scenes that reveal a contrived attempt for poignancy and distracting slow zooms that only serve to lessen the immersive experience of the film.
The mismatch of music with scene content also exemplifies Cone’s lack of skill in constructing evocative atmosphere. Soft warm light, accompanied with the sound of crickets in summery Chicago, provides a sleepy setting that offers intimacy between audience and protagonist and yet, the choice of a frigid, classical soundtrack seems misplaced and fails to stir the emotions of the audience.
However, as indie coming of age films continue to be churned out, what sets Princess Cyd apart is its incredible authenticity of acting. Rebecca Spence shines in her role as Miranda, by absolutely capturing the essence of a kind-hearted lover of literature who awkwardly balances trying to be both a friend and a mother figure to her teenage niece. Disappointingly, Cyd is occasionally written as the stock character of phone and sex-driven teen with no interest in her Aunt’s writing. However, Jessie Pinnick exudes an irresistible naturalness in her acting that fortunately defies these conventional tropes and consequently allows for a refreshingly subtle story about coming out.
Despite its underwhelming opening and non-impactful scenes, Princess Cyd prevails as a natural and charming story of sexual discovery, familial bonds and the variety of life’s pleasures. It is of no thanks to Cone but rather the raw talent of Spence and Pinnick that makes this movie so endearing.
Image: BFI London Film Festival