SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! Tendaberry, the feature-length debut of Haley Elizabeth Anderson, is at once a beautiful ode to motion and a confusing visual experience. The drama is both an intimate snapshot of one young adult’s life and a meandering story without focus. It is a realistic portrayal of a meager existence and loneliness yet takes turns that feel implausible. This is a tale of a girl finding herself, yet she can be so selfish it might be better if she does not. In other words, the film is from an artist with something singular to say but falls into the trappings of a first-time filmmaker.
Dakota (Kota Johan) lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Yuri (Yuri Pleskun). As a wee lass, she moved to the Big Apple from the Dominican Republic. While her convenience store job, for which she is never on time, is less than fulfilling, Dakota and Yuri carve fun for themselves when they can. Unfortunately, her life takes a turn for the lonely when Yuri has to fly back to Ukraine to care for his father. Things get worse when Russia illegally invades the country and begins its unjust war, trapping Yuri there with no way of communicating.
“…sends Dakota into a grief spiral, where her lack of money, naivete, and loneliness get the better of her.”
This sends Dakota into a grief spiral, where her lack of money, naivete, and loneliness (she lacks true friends) get the better of her. She becomes curt, leashing out at customers, costing her job. She puts her trust in a stranger for a new place, only to be scammed. Then Dakota discovers she’s pregnant with Yuri’s child. Why does she give in to her baser instincts? Can Dakota find her verve and passion for life again?
Tendaberry captures motion in a very unique way. When not handheld, the cinematography showcases the beauty of the urban environment. Dakota moves through the streets without a care in the world, and it is magnetic. But director of photography Matthew Ballard’s handheld camera work is disjointed, jerky, and a mess to follow. It is a shame that discombobulation often finds its way into an otherwise pristine scene.
"…good, though imperfect..."