Here I am, a few days removed from watching Saturday Grace, struggling to come up with something, anything to say about the film. The 7-minute short film begins with Iyana (Natasha Walfall) dancing in the park. She accidentally runs into a homeless woman, Lilah (Wendy Heagy). Iyana apologizes, and Liliah asks her what she was doing. Iyana explains that she is a worship dancer at her church. Lilah jumps in, stating that she used to cut a mean rug. The two then have a little impromptu dance session.
Minus the very last scene, which lasts far too long, that is the entirety of writer-director Patrice Bowman’s film. Here’s the thing, it is not bad. The two main actors are fine and dance quite well. They share a natural rapport, so buying that these two strangers could randomly make this connection is believable. But the movie has is so slight that I question what the point of this endeavor truly was.
It is strongly hinted at the beginning of Saturday Grace that Iyana lost someone close to her. However, who this person is and what exactly happened is never explained. Did he die? Were they dating, and he broke up with her? While both options are sad, one is much more traumatic and impactful than the other. Bowman gives no context for this ordeal, so understanding Iyana’s plight is all but impossible.
“…accidentally runs into a homeless woman…The two then have a little impromptu dance session.”
This confusion equally applies to what may or may not be meant to a crisis of faith spurred on by her loss. Given that she’s a worship dancer and that she seems sullen at the start, believing she may be questioning her beliefs is not an unfair assumption. But it only ever stays an assumption. There is not enough known about Iyana, her current situation, or the strength of her convictions for this idea to carry any sort of dramatic weight.
While a brief glimpse of who Lilah use to be, a dancer, is sweet, it too does not add much. How did such a talent with a zest for life end up here? Why is Iyana’s attempt to live a decent life and offer to help her new friend if Liliah should ever need anything denied? Sadly, the movie does not play out long enough for any of this to make sense.
That is because Saturday Grace really, really wants to show off the dancing. This means that despite being 7-minutes long, there are only 3 or so minutes worth of actual story. The final 3 minutes are Iyana dancing in a church. That leaves the earlier 4 minutes. But their friendly dance-off lasts at least a minute, maybe more. Sadly, Bowman places the camera at some strange angles, obscuring the choreography and talent on display. While Lilah is dancing, the movie randomly cuts to a close up of her arms and chest. Her arms are not moving much, so it is a cutaway to something ostensibly random that interrupts the flow of the rhythm and movements. All of the dancing is this awkwardly staged. When the camera is focusing on the feet and legs, or is far enough away to see what is happening, the dance steps are lovely. But that is rarely the case.
Saturday Grace has a kernel of a great story, and the two actors do the best they can with what they have. But Patrice Bowman’s script fails to give dimension or context to the characters and their plight. Bowman’s direction is equally confusing, with random edits and cutaways inserted for no discernible reason. So, I ask again, what was the point?
"…Saturday Grace really, really wants to show off the dancing."