A close encounter of the Native American kind.
If prizes were given for creating a sedate mood in a film, She Sings to the Stars would be sweeping the board. In a movie that makes Merchant Ivory productions look like something from the Fast and Furious franchise, there's no denying that She Sings to the Stars takes its time to tell its slight story.
And yet, that's the point.
Mabel is a Native American grandmother living alone in a Southwest American desert. Her half Mexican grandson dreams of life as a dancer in L.A., Lyle is a faded magician on his way to a gig in a shopping mall.
Both men are searching for something – a lost past, a bright future. Fate, and mysterious lights in the night sky, will bring them together at Mabel's home and keep them there. Mabel's is a simple life, lived without electricity, running water, modernity, but it is also one attuned to her surroundings, to her heritage and to mystery. It is here that the men will have to see life through a different viewpoint, through a new, very old set of eyes, and with a slower, more timeless rhythm.
With just a handful of stunning locations and only three performers (unless you count the white rabbit), She Sings to the Stars is quite a quiet achievement. Firstly, it looks stunning, its small budget not holding back the visual glories that cinematographer John DeFazio achieves, with landscapes at both night and day ravishing the eye. The characters are served well by the small cast who do a decent job and, if some of the dialogue meanders occasionally, some smart lines, which second-guess the audience, bring it back on track.
But where the film really scores is in its slow drawing in under Mabel's innocent spell of the two men and of us. As the old simple ways take over, slowing everything down, creating moments of real magic as opposed to Lyle's showbiz tricks, as dolls seem to live and as ancient markings in stone reveal the secrets of the stars, bringing those lights in the sky ever closer, Mabel's singing creates a harmony which resonates in the viewer.
If it all sounds a bit hokey and Native American mystic, rest assured there isn't a dream-catcher in sight, and a lack of tweeness makes that native experience feel genuine. You believe Mabel knows the things she says she does.
This debut feature by writer director Jennifer Corcoran forms the first in a planned trilogy from Circeo Films, a company started by Corcoran and her producer brother, the aim of which is 'to independently produce a cycle of dramatic feature films about women, restoring their voices to a world out of balance.' In a gentle and, without meaning to be condescending, feminine way, the film's power lies in its confident sense of calm, of belief in nature and in the power of magic.
Watch the skies. And sing.
SHE SINGS TO THE STARS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & WRITER: JENNIFER CORCORAN / STARRING: LARRY CEDAR, FANNIE LORETTO, JESUS MAYORGA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW