'Cinemanovels': Film Review

Inert drama does little with its Meta-ready psychological themes.

Lauren Lee Smith plays a woman dealing with her estranged father's death.

A woman tries to make sense of a legacy she isn't sure she wants in Cinemanovels, a one-man show in which Canadian filmmaker Terry Miles fills almost all the creative roles, most of them rather poorly. A tour of U.S. indie theaters will rely solely on the name recognition value of lead actress Lauren Lee Smith and supporting player Jennifer Beals, who've shared the small screen before on The L Word. The film will quickly join Miles' earlier straight-to-DVD outings Dawn Rider and Recoil.

Smith plays Grace, whose recently deceased father was a French-Canadian director said to have been one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. (Clips from his fictional oeuvre are sprinkled liberally throughout the movie — though they nod to auteurs from Bergman to Egoyan, they unintentionally play like an SNL spoof of '60s art cinema.) Grace is crippled by ennui, though the film is vague about whether that's her normal state or the result of mixed feelings over the death of a man who abandoned her and her mother many years ago. In any event, she's going through the motions in both daily life and marriage, where she's secretly sabotaging efforts to conceive a baby. Her only glimmers of enthusiasm come from a secret she shares with the teenage daughter of her best friend Clementine (Beals).

In an ambivalent stab at rediscovering her father, Grace volunteers to curate a retrospective of his work, none of which she's ever seen. Enter a neighbor in her building, Adam (Kett Turton), a film editor who reveres her dad. Adam threatens to become an illicit love interest even as he helps her understand the man she's spent her adult life ignoring.

The multiple roles these side characters play in Grace's life clearly have psychological significance for Miles, as do affected little details like Grace's house shoes and the warlike walkie-talkies she and her husband use to communicate around the building. But his limp direction and undercooked screenplay render them fairly meaningless for us. Attempts at humor are even less successful than the family drama, though these are fairly sparse and as colorless as Miles' flat cinematography.

Production company: Cinemanovel Films
Cast: Lauren Lee Smith, Jennifer Beals, Ben Cotton, Kett Turton, Katharine Isabelle
Director-Screenwriter-Director of photography-Editor: Terry Miles
Producers: Terry Miles, Kristine Cofsky, Lauren Lee Smith
Executive producer: Jennifer Beals
Music: Eiko Ishiwata, Michael Wilson
R, 90 minutes

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