William Dickerson wrote the novel No Alternative as a love letter to his sister Brianna, who suffered mental illness and struggled all her life, ultimately committing suicide in 2014. No Alternative is not Brianna’s biography, nor his own, but inspired by the themes and trials of their lives. Dickerson then took the story from novel to film himself, writing and directing, as a way to work through his grief for Brianna.
Brianna becomes Bridget (Michaela Cavazos) in the film, which focuses on her life in the dying gasps of the Grunge era. She’s discovering expression and release in rap street poetry while her brother Thomas (Conor Proft) finds a passion sparked by the death of Kurt Cobain to dive deeper into Grunge and start a band of his own.
Bridget performs as “Bri Da B,” taking on the persona of a male African American gangster rapper, a startling approach with questionable racial politics. She gets away with it by being an acerbically adorable manic pixie dream OG.
“…my sister’s life was a battle fought against borderline personality disorder, drug addiction, and suicidal behavior…”
Bridget has largely been written off by the family because of her illness, leaving Thomas to carry the weight of expectations handed down from his conservative father. Harry Hamlin makes a welcome appearance as sturdy right-wing judge William Harrison who finds his daughter’s difficulties and outbursts embarrassing and potentially a threat to his career. Thomas is hoping to echo his father’s academic and career success while Bridget founders and seeks redemption in the emerging rap scene.
Dickerson seamlessly blends a coming-of-age tragedy with the transitioning music scene of the mid ‘90’s and a push for awareness of the stigma around mental illness. This all comes grounded by an amazing soundtrack. His young actors acquit themselves far beyond expectation, driving the film to be a rare indie gem that delivers solidly on all fronts with no missteps.
He speaks from the heart in his crowdsourcing campaign on IndieGogo where he went for funds: “The majority of my sister’s life was a battle fought against borderline personality disorder, drug addiction, and suicidal behavior. A battle she ultimately succumbed to on July 1, 2014.”
No Alternative (2018). Directed by William Dickerson. Written by William Dickerson, Dwight Moody. Starring Michaela Cavazos, Conor Proft, Harry Hamlin.
8 out of 10
No Alternative premieres at the Dances with Films Festival as the opening night movie.