Friday, April 20, 2012

Angela (1995)

     Movies are hardly ever made about mentally disturbed children. I think it's because people envision childhood as some kind of Eden before they grow up and life gets messy - people get jobs, come of age, and possibly lose their minds - but before that, life is rosy and carefree. Angela, a dark, dreamy film from first-time director Rebecca Miller, proves just how wrong they are. The eponymous character (Miranda Rhyne), who could be diagnosed with any number of psychological ailments, has moved to a ramshackle house with her parents and younger sister Ellie (Charlotte Eve Blythe).

     The girls' mother, Mae, seems to be Bipolar - dark moods come over her unexpectedly and her daughters would do anything in their power to make her happy. Solemn pre-teen Angela, however, is having internal struggles of her own. Obsessed with religious imagery and sin, she is visited by Lucifer, a pale winged man who tempts her with promises of a better life. When young Ellie sets the curtains on fire, Angela puts her in a protective circle surrounded by dolls to purge her of her sins and save her from eternal damnation.

    All right, I'll be downright controversial here - this movie shows how damaging extremist religion can be for children. It is hard to argue (but some people will, anyway) that young children shouldn't be troubled by these things.  By the time they can read "are you saved" slips, even those not born of fundamentalist families will wonder what lengths they should take to follow the right path. This and a chemically unbalanced mind tend to take these things to an obsessive level.

     Okay, now that I've offended two-thirds of he audience and driven them away, I'll get to the technical aspects of the film. The sound, as you might of heard, is really bad. This may or may not only apply to the Netflix Instant version of the film, but the actor's mouths move discordantly with the dialogue so that you hear the sound effect ten seconds after the said action occurs. For a low-budget movie, the acting is pretty good, and the little girls do decent jobs. There is some child nudity, which could be artistic or offensive depending on your point of view, but it bothered me a little bit - can't these girls afford bathing suits?

     I liked Peter Facinelli as the devil- sly rather than overtly threatening and easy to confuse with a good angel (but watch out for those cloven hooves). Last was the sudden, tragic ending, whose implications were more disturbing the more I looked into them. If you like arty, deliberately paced dramas that fly under the radar, this could be a good choice for you. It has a moving message about the psychological vulnerability of children, especially unstable ones, and what happens when they go unnoticed (Rated NR.)

 Rating-** Stars


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