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I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This
feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the
Grand Prize Winner in October of 2005. The Heartland Film Festival is a
non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture
explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and
respect for the positive values of life."
This is a family drama and a murder mystery set in the farm country in rural Indiana. Two grown sisters' lives are dominated by the murder of their Mother in their presence when they were children. Recently, one of the sister's daughter has had a terrible farm accident and the other sister, a writer, comes home to help and support the family.
With this current tragedy, the sisters are forced to confront their past and the difficulties of their own current lives. The sisters are heroic because of their saint-like qualities. They have great integrity and great humility and would do anything for each other.
The most interesting part of the film is the contrast between the two sisters. The one who stayed on the farm is religious and solemn and dutiful. The one who is the writer who left for the city is more intellectual and worldly and emotional. But even with these contrasts and the geographic distance and the distance of time, the sibling ties are still powerful.
And you won't guess the ending.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Crystal Heart winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
If you believe that it is OK for a father to take his seriously injured
kid fishing instead of fighting for reconstructive treatment and
surgery or it is reasonable for a professional writer to destroy a
critical creation because her younger sister will not "bless" the work,
then rent this movie. The acting is mediocre but the plot is worse. The
entire family refuses to discuss or talk about an event that changes
everyone lives forever. Somehow, burying or denying ones emotions will
solve everything. The only real redeeming feature of the movie are many
beautiful shots of landscapes and sunsets.
I have almost never written a scathing review of a movie but felt compelled to do so because the message of this movie seems to be that acting out of ignorance or self interest is OK as long as it appears to be acting out of conscience or doctrine. Anyone heard of a child not receiving necessary medical attention recently because the parents didn't believe in it???
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pearl Diver (2004) is a beautiful, thoughtful, moving, involving and uplifting movie about two sisters who used to be very close in their childhood on the rural farm where they grew up in a Mennonite community. One tragic night, their mother was murdered by two intruders who tried to find something in their house. The girls' lives were changed forever. That night took them apart, and only twenty years later when another tragedy strikes, the sisters begin to unravel the mystery of old trauma. This is the film debut by writer /director Sidney King. He's got his own style in telling the story and creating and exploring interesting complex characters, not loud and flashy but clear, distinguished, and very attractive. I am especially pleased to see in one of the important roles the famous Russian stage and screen actor, Eugene Lazarev. His character provides the necessary depth to the story, he is a keeper of history and he holds the key to the mystery of what could be the reason for past tragedy that put the long shadow to the lives of the girls and their relationship. There is a short documentary on the disc, narrated by King where he talks on the purpose of movie, the reasons he made it and about the characters and their story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It seems that this is the only movie written and directed by Sidney
King. There really isn't any more about him that I could find. However
it is a very interesting movie, a bit slow moving at times, and by the
end comes through with more complexity than it first seems.
As King tells us in the DVD extra, the story is really about the relationship of the two sisters, Hannah and Marian, how they relate to each other, and how they see the world. They are Mennonites, a Protestant Christian sect similar to the Amish but also different. While they may use horse-drawn buggies on roadways, they also use motorized farm equipment and have telephones. Their Mennonite traditions are central to the playing out of the story.
Little Maddie Abshire is Rebecca Miller, about 6 or 7, who gets injured when her dad started the hay baler and didn't hear or see her. She survives but is badly disfigured and the insurance will not cover all the expenses that might be necessary to fix her.
Joey Honsa, an actress who reminds me a lot of a younger Sigorney Weaver, is one of the adult sisters, Hannah Eberly, the aunt of little Rebecca. She is a writer based in Chicago and when she hears of the accident drives to the small Indiana town to offer support. She ends up staying and writing from that town.
Amy Jean Johnson is the other sister, Marian Miller, and mother of little Rebecca. We see right away that she clings to the Mennonite ways of nonviolence and confrontation. When Hannah tells her she needs to hire a lawyer and sue the insurance company, she is very reluctant to do so, instead just wanting to accept that little Rebecca is a victim of an accident and that is her lot in life.
There is a compelling back-story, 20 years earlier their mother had been murdered by two thugs looking to steal a valuable piece of jewelery that it turns out their mother never had. It is revealed in parts throughout the movie in brief flashbacks. Hannah wanted to write their story in a book, but Marian just wanted to suppress it, after all it was an accident, it could have happened to anyone.
Their neighbor farmer is veteran Russian actor Yevgeni Lazarev as Russian immigrant Issac Epp. He had been a good friend of their mother. He eventually provides critical missing pieces to the story.
Good movie, worth a watch. The title comes from a scene when |Hannah and Marian were small, Hannah had a new pearl-handled pen knife, she dropped it in the water but Marian dived many times trying to retrieve the knife, but without success. However it was a sign of her sisterly love.
SPOILERS: The men who murdered their mom was after a valuable diamond and ruby necklace from Russian royalty. It was worth "10 farms." Many years ago Issac had intended to give it to their mother as part of his request that she marry him, but he was too late, she was already spoken for. So he buried it in a metal container a certain distance from a tree, so he could dig it up presently. This means the murders did not strike totally randomly, they were at the wrong house, and Issac had an inadvertent hand in their mother's death. He now gave the necklace to Marian, so she would be able to sell it and use the money for Rebecca's medical treatments. Hannah and Marian stood on the pier and one by one discarded the manuscript into the water, the book of their mother's murder would not be published. One more item, mom always wanted to help people, do what she could, and Marian appeared to be of the same mindset. However the very last flashback showed the murderer in a pit outside the house, sinking as if in quicksand. Marian was there as he pleaded with her to push him a board that might save him. She didn't, but instead withdrew it from his reach. Marian and Hannah were both imperfect!
Fantastic film! It is beautifully written with interesting twists. The movie exhibits a wonderful portrayal of Mennonite traditions and conflicts we all can relate to( those pertaining to sticking to traditional values and family). Simply a moving story!!! It definitely touched the heart and brought tears to my eyes. Nice Chemistry amongst the actors/actresses. Beautiful scenery. Music accompanies scenes well. It can't get any better for being first script and movie!!! This film definitely can touch all audiences, A must see. I highly look forward to seeing this film shown on big screens everywhere. It gets a standing ovation.
Viewing "Pearl Diver" on the first day of the Indianapolis Heartland Film Festival truly got my weekend off on a great start. Family is so important no matter what continent one might live on. Rallying around one-another and stretching out a helping hand supports anyone overcome the most severe obstacles and challenges. This film is an excellent portrayal of all those qualities. Casting was superb, especially in the close, yet conflicting relationship between the two sisters. And, the part of the young daughter reminded me of a true story on a farm in southern Ohio where my wife grew up. These kind of accidents occur more times than not. I also enjoyed the overpowering prayerful hand of strength given by the community. Finally, the cinematography in northern Indiana depicted the beauty of the Hoosier state, especially during the Autumn where skies show every color in the rainbow.
The use of "flashbacks" made it a bit difficult to follow, but the story came thru OK. The actors/actresses did a GREAT job & the directing was superb. I enjoy seeing films made in my home state (IN) & this was one of the best. Kudos to all who made it happen. I viewed the film as part of a "film festival". It was shown at a theater that was unfamiliar to me & I wasn't comfortable with their "routine", which was to "repeatedly interrupt" the viewer during the show to sell them refreshments. I feel a film of this nature requires a concentrated effort to absorb the intended message & the interruptions were a detriment. I will make an effort to obtain this film on DVD & watch it without interruption in the comfort of my home in the future.
I was at the North Carolina Writers Network conference this past
weekend and had the opportunity to see a screening of Sydney King's
"The Pearl Diver." Knowing it was the first movie Sydney King had
written, produced, and directed, I have to admit I attended the viewing
more out of curiosity than high expectations.
I can't tell you how happily surprised I was. The power of this movie is absolutely amazing: especially since it is a first movie for this young man. The talent this movie demonstrates --- the writing, directing, casting --- predicts he has a bright future. The story, the pacing, the mystery, the tensions---everything about "The Pearl Diver" makes it a "must see." I'm going to try to get it into our local Sunrise Theatre (Pinehurst, NC) which thrives on showing films that are not necessarily blockbusters but which have substantive content and artistic execution. Try to see this film---wherever you are.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Pearl Diver" has some excellent things going for it - a well told story, and in general satisfactory acting. However while the story is well told, the implausibility of a girl growing up on a farm not understanding the dangers of heavy machinery totally stretches plausibility. The horrible "accident" that takes place made me scoff in disbelief, and unfortunately the movie is built around that incident. Much of the rest of the story is well done. I appreciated that the filmmakers managed to stay away from the bad clichéd element of romance/marrying the kid you knew down the street. The ending was well done as wellwhere the heartfelt and care between the sisters wins out over anger and greed. Recommended.
Pearl Diver is beautifully done, deep, rich, and unpretentious. It explores the relationship between Mennonite sisters who, as children, witnessed their mother's murder. They have dealt with it in different ways: Hannah, by following her anger to a new life in the city; and Marian, by internalizing her feelings and remaining true to her Mennonite upbringing. While it may seem that Marian is in denial, subsequent revelations ~ presented through flashbacks ~ show that her anger may have been transmuted into a sad wisdom. Her silence stems from secrecy; her forgiveness, from guilt. Flashbacks are beautifully done. The main themes are pretty straightforward, but the suspense and complexity keep it from being static. Mature viewers and readers of classic novels will enjoy the depth and foreshadowing. (The anecdote from Marian's opening scene, of Dirk Willems ~ an Anabaptist martyr ~ foreshadows a flashback scene in which Marian's character is given added dimension.) Mennonite lifestyles are portrayed with dignity, but without idealization. Hannah's character is critical of the lifestyle, but her criticism is balanced by the integrity of the Mennonites. The solution to the financial crisis is somewhat convenient; but it has the strength of symbolism on its side. Action buffs and viewers who like superficial themes will be bored or mystified. The film is not typical Hollywood.
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