1995, NR, 103 min. Directed by Rebecca Miller. Starring Anna Thomson, John Ventimiglia, Miranda Stuart Rhyne, Charlotte Blythe, Peter Facinelli, Vincent Gallo.
REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Feb. 23, 1996
“We're Christian Scientists,” 10-year-old Angela (Rhyne) explains to a new friend. “We use electricity to make people's souls clean.” Angela's definition of her and her 6-year-old sister Ellie's (Blythe) “religion” captures the mix of unexpected humor and dark eccentricity in Angela, Rebecca Miller's feature debut. Director of photography Ellen Kuras (Unzipped, Swoon) translates many of these moments in shades of blue, lending an ethereal, moody quality to the scenes. Such a mood fits Miller's screenplay, which narrates the dreamy world of Angela and Ellie as they cope with their beautiful, manic-depressive mother Mae (Thomson) and their devoted but distracted father Andrew (Ventimiglia). Told primarily from Angela's viewpoint, the film carefully represents the interior life of a 10-year-old whose world is falling apart. Angela's obsession with sin and its consequences results in visitations by Lucifer (Facinelli), a compelling image in stark white who croons softly for Angela to join him. Miller's screenplay is elliptical and lyrical, a string of moody tableaus rather than a strong linear narrative. As a representation of a young girl's dealing with and understanding her mother's moods, Angela succeeds. At times, though, the film's lyricism makes it difficult to connect scenes and actions. Uneven sound quality often drowns the dialogue, further complicating the viewing experience. However, Kuras' images are stunningly resonant, smooth as velvet and just as seductive. Angela marks not only the directorial debut of Miller but also memorable acting debuts for Rhyne and Blythe. Rhyne's sharp features section off her stunning face, a young beauty on the verge of adolescence, while Blythe's young softness conveys a beleaguered vulnerability common among younger sisters. Their relationship is thoroughly fleshed out and expertly conveyed. Despite a few weak spots, Angela is a combination of intriguing images and subtle themes, a film that lingers long after the last image fades from the screen.