This film has been described as a indie version of Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, which is near impossible, because no film could actually be that pretentious. Either way, I couldn’t help but be skeptical. Recent indie films that focus on manic-depressive characters have either been too quirky or too underplayed for any sort of powerful angst or emotion.
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- The Unseen
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Laura Smiles succeeds where the others have failed, exceedingly so, without the slightest hint of ego or quirkiness. Petra Wright (XX/XY) stars as our protagonist, 24 year old Laura. She’s a struggling actress who’s engaged to Chris (Kip Pardue), a bright, young writer. Just weeks before the wedding, he is hit by a car and killed instantly, right in front of her eyes.
Jump nine years later; Laura is married, has one child, and lives in your everyday suburban house. Despite the loss of her first love, she seems to have turned herself into the picture-perfect soccer mom. But things aren’t as good as they seem. Memories of the accident and the torment of living such a bleak life start to haunt her. She even dreams of killing her son, which she describes to her therapist in one harrowing scene. In desperation for happiness, she starts cheating on her husband with family friend Paul (Jonathan Silverman), a single parents who’s looking for love, not lust.
Things start backfiring for Laura, but she isn’t willing to stop until she finds what she needs, or hits rock bottom trying. The film, written and directed by Jason Ruscio, is a flawless portrait of delirium. Although his skill as a storyteller is extraordinary, there isn’t a single quality of the film that stands out on its own. Ruscio’s sharp dialogue is clever, yet realistic, but when complemented by Wright’s beautiful performance, everything comes together.
Laura Smiles is a beautiful film, in a way, but calling it “depressing” would be an understatement. Being so powerfully sad, don’t expect to leave the theater with smiles.