Based on an empowering true story, Donna: Stronger Than Pretty tells the harrowing journey of Donna and her children. Told across three decades, director Jaret Martino makes an astounding effort to portray the struggles of a woman during the horrors of domestic violence. The movie displays how Donna overcame adversity and was able to find her voice, seeking to inspire others despite the trauma she faced.
Donna: Stronger Than Pretty begins with a classic love story between aspiring teacher Donna (Kate Amundsen) and the always charming Nick (Anthony Ficco). The two hit it off, and in no time, they are married. Nick is a great stepfather to Donna’s son, and the two soon have a child of their own on the way – a picture right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. However, soon Nick’s shady past starts to catch up with him; he starts falling into debt, he begins cheating on Donna, dealing drugs, and eventually assaulting her. Determined not to be broken, Donna fights for her family and herself in this poignant film.
“…he begins cheating on Donna, dealing drugs, and eventually assaulting her.“
Where lesser movies might have stopped with a big breakup or Donna getting free, Donna: Stronger Than Pretty goes a step further. It authentically portrays a portrait of life inside and after the abuse, taking notes from films like Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. Throughout every trial shown or implied on screen, Donna is further developed as a character for the audience to empathize with.
Kate Amundsen delivers a moving performance as Donna. Amundsen’s choices as an actor marry well with the material and demands of the character. Her portrayal is filled with subtlety and emotion. Martino even includes a post-credits scene where the real-life Donna and Amundsen discuss the events of her life. This small conversation gives a lot of insight into how Amundsen can tap into the multitude of emotions throughout the picture- from the joys of first love to the anguish of abuse.
Ultimately, the film is a testament to the strength of the real-life Donna and women who escape the vicious cycle of abuse. As much as we may want a Kill Bill revenge montage or desire to see Nick bite the dust like any number of Game of Thrones characters, Donna: Stronger Than Pretty delivers reality: sometimes the best revenge is getting out of the toxicity and becoming successful in your own way. Adamantly, there are numerous moments that very “on the nose” in their delivery, and some moments drag a bit for my taste. Despite its shortcomings, the movie does justice to the brave women who face life after abuse and gives hope to those still enduring it.
"…does justice to the brave women who face life after abuse..."