I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fourth time. I’ll be seeing as many movies as I can and offering reviews throughout the week.
Where Is Kyra?
Directed by Andrew Dosunmu
Movies that include a question in their title are by nature about transformation or a lack thereof. This film’s title might immediately make audiences think that its protagonist has gone missing, either in a very literal way or a more metaphorical sense. In this case, the latter is truer, as one woman’s attempt to deal with a devastating loss and a realization that she has lost control of her life forces her into a major struggle to cope and come out ahead. Answering this question, however, is far less enticing, as this very lackluster film demonstrates.
Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer) has recently moved to Brooklyn to be with her aging and ailing mother, and has had little luck finding a job after being laid off two years earlier and getting divorced from her husband. Her mother’s death sends her over the edge, and realizing that she has accidentally switched two numbers in her mother’s social security number, she goes to extreme measures to maintain the illusion that her mother is still alive to cash her checks and pay what she can of her mounting bills. A newfound relationship with her neighbor Doug (Kiefer Sutherland) offers some hope, but Kyra can’t seem to dig her way out of the hole in which she’s burrowed herself.
“Where Is Kyra?” is not a happy film. Even when Kyra and Doug flirt and share a brief moment of positive energy, the mood of the movie returns to a melancholy state. Frequent close-ups show the emotion, or more accurately, lack of feeling in Kyra’s face as she faces the world each day. She fearlessly walks into offices and fast-food restaurants to face immediate rejection, yet her presentation, full of forced enthusiasm, doesn’t recommend her as a worthwhile candidate in any environment. Doug presents some notion of stability, but ultimately it’s Kyra driving her own journey headed towards nothing good.
Three-time Oscar nominee has not anchored a film in a number of years, though her work in the 1980s and 1990s demonstrate her excellent ability. Here, however, she’s detached and miserable, which may be what the role calls for but doesn’t really get at the root of her character and what defines her aside from a lack of definition. Sutherland is capable in the nice-guy part he occupies, but this is Pfeiffer’s show more than anything. The tone of the film is bleak and its events just as unenlivening, and it’s hard to find anything of value to latch on to in this plodding film whose ending makes the whole journey feel completely pointless.