Mike Trippiedi’s feature film, Amber Rose, is an interesting film because it is one that I think is quite powerful, and also one that I have little desire to watch again. That doesn’t remotely mean the film is a bad one; there are just some films that you accept are strong, but don’t fit into repeat viewings. It’s a rough film to experience due to the subject matter, but it is handled so well, and the performances are stellar, that not needing to see it again doesn’t detract from the film.
The film concerns young Amber Rose (Zoë Capps), who lives alone with her mother, Lynn (Carolyn Kodes-Atkinson), in a small town. When new neighbors move next door, Amber is understandably nosey; the town isn’t full of too many kids her age that she can stand, and there’s something intriguing about Judy (Amy Stoch) and her brother Skip (Steven M. Keen). Skip has some serious brain damage, and he does little more than stare, but Amber takes a liking to him.
Unfortunately for Amber, Judy doesn’t want the young girl around her brother. At the same time, another man, Gil (Joe Dempsey), comes to town. Claiming to know Skip from before the brain damage, Gil’s attempts to reconnect with Skip are often ill-timed and, instead, Gil begins seeing much more of Amber Rose and her mother, eventually starting a courtship with Lynn. Nothing is remotely as it seems, however, and as the pasts of Skip, Judy and Gil are slowly revealed, we realize that Amber is in the center of a potentially horrible situation.
As the plot turns in Amber Rose, the film becomes extremely dark, though not in a way that we commonly get in cinema; this film is a horror film of another sort. As the characters’ pasts become more and more clear, the film becomes all the more uncomfortable to experience. Again, this is a film that could go a number of different directions, and very few of them would have a positive ending. No matter how you slice it, Amber Rose is likely going to need therapy when she’s older.
Still, for as dark and uncomfortable as the film can get, the performances in the film are so incredible it’s hard to look away. While Keen’s Skip mostly remains silent and stares blankly ahead, he still manages to convey that his brain is operating much better than it may appear. Stoch’s Judy reveals a tortured soul that just wants everything to be okay, but is slowly understanding that “okay” will never be in the cards for her or Skip.
Dempsey’s Gil is a charming fox who appears to have a heart of gold, even with a mind that comes nowhere near. Luckily for the audience, he’s coupled with the strong Lynn, who Kodes-Atkinson’s fleshes into a character you do not want to mess with. Rounding out the cast is Capps’ Amber Rose, who walks that line of being too curious and willful for her own good, but altogether innocently so.
So we’re back at the beginning, with me repeating that Amber Rose is a great film that I have no desire to watch again. One walk through this cinematic experience was enough for me, and I think it will be equally challenging, if not more so, for others to go through. Still, it’s worth a look for the performances alone, just don’t say I didn’t warn you that you’d be in for a rough run.
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