Emotionally raw and uncommonly observant, this coming-of-age drama balances the pull of family obligation against personal aspirations. Madison Davenport beautifully conveys the mixture of fierce love and grueling weariness she feels while embracing her role as caregiver, a responsibility that threatens to consume the entirety of her life. And Taryn Manning is equally impressive in avoiding any trace of caricature in her portrayal of mental illness, preserving Gloria's dignity even as her behavior becomes more erratic. Director Valerie Weiss has found an ideal collaboration in screenwriter Moira McMahon Leeper, making her feature debut. By turns endearing, unsettling, and ultimately moving, A Light Beneath Their Feet is a triumph of empathetic filmmaking. There are no heroes and villains in this story, just ordinary people struggling to create a sense of normalcy in their day-to-day existence.Written by
"A Light Beneath Their Feet" is a very unusual film. Why? Well, it's about a relatively common problem...yet hardly any other films have addressed the serious problem of a mentally ill parent being parented by their children. Think about it...with many, many millions of folks suffering with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Depression, very few movies talk about this...let alone the impact this has on their children. Fortunately, "A Light Beneath Their Feet" brings this problem to light and with mostly positive results.
When the film begins, Beth (Madison Davenport) is a very successful high school senior...so successful that she actually has some amazing options for college...Northwestern as well as UCLA. While she really wants to go to UCLA, there is a problem. Her mother, Gloria (Taryn Manning), has a mental illness and can barely care for herself. In many ways, she acts and thinks like a child. Naturally, there's a lot of pressure on Beth to stay home and attend Northwestern...which seems like a nice option (after all, it's a great school). However, will Beth ever be able to have a life of her own--let alone pick the college of her choice? After all, she cannot be Gloria's parent forever...and that's exactly what she faces unless something changes. Sadly, the change that comes is not for the good, as a mix up in medications sends Gloria completely over the edge...and Beth can no longer pretend everything will just work out...somehow.
I loved the theme of the film. Part of it is because it is rather unique and part of it is because I used to be a psychotherapist and thought Manning's performance as a Bipolar mother was terrific and compelling. Plus, no one ever seems to talk about the kids of these folks. My only reservations come because the film sometimes has too many plots...such as Beth's love life and, more importantly, the unrealistic side story involving the incredibly malevolent daughter of Gloria's psychiatrist. All these stories, while very interesting, are perhaps too much for one film. Still, with some terrific acting, a socially important subject as well as a story that really sucks you in, it's a film I recommend you see. Plus, there's a good chance you might know someone like Beth or Gloria...and it's nice that this sort of thing is coming out of the shadows.
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