Rave Reviews of “Where is Kyra?”

 

About ‘Where is Kyra?’

Michelle Pfeiffer is typically excellent as Kyra; imbuing her with a tragic vulnerability and a protective layer that flags a backstory of sadness and disappointment. There is a slight thaw when she meets local caretaker Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), but can they really overcome their circumstances or will their happiness be short-lived? Skillful direction and impressively nuanced performances from its two leads are perfectly complemented by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival), whose rich, sombre tones cast complex shadows and a tragic beauty to every scene.

Edinburgh International Film Festival Reviews

June 22 & 24 (Edinburgh International Film Festival)

Edinburgh 2017: Where is Kyra? review

Michelle Pfeiffer delivers one of her best performance in years in Where is Kyra?, director Andrew Dosunmu’s follow-up to Mother of George. It’s a dark, often suffocating character study that revels in misery, barely a hint of levity in sight as a woman spirals into desperation.

Pfeiffer plays Kyra, who lives in a pokey flat in New York City with her ill mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd), where they barely exist considering Kyra has been out of work for two years, ever since her marriage ended and she was forced to move back from Virginia. And then Ruth dies, and Kyra, driven by heartache and mounting bills, steeps to new levels of desperation (first in scraping change for wherever possible to committing fraud), all the while developing a relationship with Doug (Keifer Sutherland), who has his own demons to keep under control.

Dosunmu has crafted bleak film about what’s it like to lose everything and not know which way to turn. At one point, Kyra is driven back to Virginia to her ex-husband’s doorstep, begging for any money he can spare, despite the fact he’s now shacked up with another woman and a baby on the way. It’s heartbreaking at times, but also oppressive. There’s darkness around every corner, which takes it toll, making for a film that becomes difficult to engage with on a personal level. Kyra’s struggle is real, but Pfeiffer in the role doesn’t make it wholly convincing, no matter how much she ploughs into the role. For much of the film, she plays dress up, disguised as someone else, but the level of hopelessness Kyra is supposed to be feeling never entirely translates.

But considering she’s been fairly absent from the screen in recent years, it’s a role that displays exactly what Pfeiffer can do. Even if you can’t fully appreciate the plight of her character, there’s no denying her talents, and the small moments of joy come down to her incredible range. Sutherland is also on form her as a man plagued by his own mistakes, the toxic levels Kyra plunges to threatening not only to ruin her chance of a future, but also increasing the chance of ruining what he’s built up since losing everything himself.

Dosunmu recruits Mother of George cinematographer Bradford Young, whose take on New York City presents something different from the usual. It’s seen here as a dark, unforgiving city, the tight close ups trapping Kyra in her own disparity. It’s interesting to see this juxtaposed by the colours she wears, for example the yellow coat, which she latches onto as if it’s her last piece of the successful life she used to had, and so wants back. It may wear too heavy, and not reach the level of empathy from the audience that it’s aiming for, but Where is Kyra? is undeniably stirring and a welcome to return – if not quite a full return to form – for Pfeiffer.

3 stars
By Jamie Neish | CINEVUE


Michelle Pfeiffer plays against type in this compelling drama

Where Is Kyra? marks Michelle Pfeiffer’s return to the screen since the 2013 crime comedy The Family in what is the most unlikely role of her almost forty-year long career. She plays Kyra, an unemployed divorcee who looks after her elderly mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd). However, when Ruth dies, Kyra is unable to pay the rent for the apartment she shared with her. The film follows her desperate attempts to find the money required whilst having almost no one to turn to except Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), a sympathetic part-time taxi driver.
Pfeiffer completely convinces as Kyra, effectively conveying the character’s desperation as she fruitlessly trawls shops and restaurants in search of a menial job that will provide at least some money. There is no sense of any Hollywood-style glamour in her performance, with Pfeiffer breaking down into uncontrollable sobs at her mother’s funeral and later handing out leaflets in the pouring rain as well as begging for a loan from her ex-husband. This results in Pfeiffer’s most raw and emotional performance to date, far exceeding the vulnerability she shows in films such as Scarface and Batman Returns. Similarly, Sutherland is also believable as Doug who, like Kyra, has also fallen on hard times with an estranged daughter on the other side of the country, but who manages to maintain his dignity until he becomes involved in one of Kyra’s schemes that draws the attention of the police. Both actors disappear completely into their roles and makes their struggles identifiable, preventing their previous roles and star status from distracting from their performances.
Director Dosunmu portrays Kyra and Doug’s lonely, unforgiving New York home through a use of foreboding shadows and muted, at times almost monochrome, color grading. This staging becomes particularly effective at the film’s climax, where Kyra’s attempts to evade the police using a disguise could come across in the wrong hands as a farcical situation from a Pink Panther film but instead becomes an intense sequence with little to no humour. Dosunmu’s bleak mise-en-scene is aided by Philip Miller’s discordant score, which underlines the mounting chaos and instability of Kyra’s situation and provides this small character-based drama with the unsettling atmosphere of films such as Under The Skin.
Where Is Kyra? is an atmospheric drama showing one woman’s gradual loss of control that features Michelle Pfeiffer’s strongest performance to date.

4 stars
By Adam Thornton | the wee review


Where is Kyra? (2017) 6/6

A lonely middle aged woman struggles to survive in New York after the death of her dependant mother.  The cinematography immediately impacts the film with a sensational use of doorways, mirrors, shadows and sight lines to close in and isolate the lead Kyra, the lingering shots and dark colour palettes symbols of her fading life.  Pfeiffer is mesmerising as Kyra, putting in an excellent nuanced performance.  The soundscape is incredible with a bold use of music and glaring surreal sound effects. A stunningly executed and important study into the way society isolates women of a certain age.

By moviereviewedinburgh


EdFilmFest: Where is Kyra? Review

There are so many exciting aspects about Where is Kyra? A rising star director in Andrew Dosunmu. Michelle Pfeiffer’s first role in four years, and a serious one at that. The cinematographer is Bradford Young, fresh from his well-deserved Oscar and BAFTA nominations for the exceptional Arrival. All these components should come together to make one hell of a film. 1+1+1=5 right? Wrong, but they certainly come close.
This is, hands down, one of the most gorgeous films of the year, or any year. Young doesn’t just work with frames within frames, he works with openings in those frames within frames. It’s spectacular, and it’s not just an aesthetic gimmick, it fits the film perfectly. Particularly early on as the titular Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer) looks after her dying mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd) in Ruth’s apartment in Brooklyn. The opening shot is divided into three sections where we can see the mother’s room, the bathroom and the reflection of more space in a mirror. The ballet of movement which takes place within this static scene is utterly mesmerising.
There is a rich depth to the photography, the contrast, shading and mix of fragmented frames or, frames, with lots of empty space creates a hypnotic beauty of even the most tragic of images.
Kyra’s story is indeed tragic. Divorced and jobless, she has moved from Virginia back to Brooklyn to look after her ailing mother. When Ruth suddenly passes, Kyra finds herself without an income and resorts, with much regret, to impersonating her mother to receive her social security cheques. Though she has sunk to such depths there is some hope in her new relationship with Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), whose own chequered past seems to offer her an empathy and kinship.
Sutherland is on good form here, lending Doug an emotional reality, sympathy but not without limits, but Pfeiffer is the real star of the show. Kyra is an ambiguous character, at once deserving of sympathy but not above contempt, she knows what she is doing is wrong but struggles to break free from the pattern. Pfeiffer conveys an air of quiet determination yet Kyra is utterly helpless, this is the kind of role she has been waiting for, one she can use to showcase her abilities.
The scene of Ruth’s death is where the Pfeiffer’s performance and Young’s masterful cinematography come together to become a shining example of the essence of cinema. A quiet moment, Pfeiffer reacts to the death in a long, gradually tightening shot. She subtly alters her expression, breathing and posture as the revelations being to pour down on her.
Yet the mundane brilliance and palpable tension of Kyra’s existence is eventually turned into a sort of melodrama, unbefitting the film, disturbing the tranquil waters. The longer her impersonation attempts go on, the less intense the fear and the more absurd they become. It seems like an unnecessarily long plot arc to get to a climactic finale, out of sorts with the slow, building sorrow of her situation.
So, a third act that threatens to undo much of the early work, isn’t enough to ruin a film, it is still an impressive piece of filmmaking. Perhaps it doesn’t quite add up to more than the sum of its parts, but it certainly equals them, and considering this is Dosunmu’s second feature, offers promise.

By Jonathan Glen | front row reviews


EIFF Film review: Where is Kyra?

Following a four-year hiatus, Michelle Pfeiffer makes her acting return taking the titular role in Andrew Dosunmu’s slow-burning drama Where is Kyra? Poverty-stricken Kyra lives in Brooklyn with her elderly ailing mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd) and struggles to make ends meet as she hunts for a job. After suffering a loss, she drowns her sorrows in the local drinking den where she meets lowly caretaker Doug (Kiefer Sutherland). The pair make a connection, bonding over their hardship, but Kyra’s desperate need for cash soon leads her to take a treacherous risk.
 There is a strong, visually arresting style that comes from acclaimed cinematographer Bradford Young’s striking aesthetics, most of the interior shots lit only by lamps to give a melancholy atmosphere that compliments the bleak subject matter. Philip Miller’s score is equally as experimental and goes into an otherworldly overdrive with strange screeching sounds as Kyra’s despair gradually intensifies. These showy filmmaking techniques distract from the paper-thin plot for a while, but the narrative’s painfully meandering pace unfortunately becomes boring and repetitive pretty quickly.
Pfeiffer is well cast as the lead, sporting a harsh and hardened exterior that works as a mask against her inner trauma, and she and Sutherland both make the most of the minimalistic material and sparse dialogue they have to work with. However, the experienced performances can only carry Where is Kyra? so far and there just isn’t enough of a story to captivate throughout.

By Garry Arnot‏ | CinePerspective




BAM CinemaFest Reviews

June 17 (BAM CinemaFest)

‘Where is Kyra’ (2017) B-

When committing to an authentic depiction a life lived in desperation and hopelessness, how thoroughly can you strip away any semblance of light or hope without punishing the viewer? It’s not clear if that question ever crossed Andrew Dosunmu’s mind while making Where is Kyra?, his gorgeous, daunting and draining follow-up to the vibrant, conflicted marital drama of Mother of George. Committed as ever to revealing life on the New York fringes to those who’d rather shield themselves from others’ suffering, some viewers may feel their admiration of Dosunmu’s work wilting into distress as they watch an aging, neglected Michelle Pfeiffer plummet into demeaning obscurity. An empathetic wake up call to the New York elites who can afford to behold it, for viewers who are similarly struggling to maintain their dignity in working class America, Where is Kyra? may simply add up to a suffocating nightmare.
Things are already bleak on the outset of Where is Kyra?, as a trembling, elderly lady slowly lumbers across the frame, unnoticed and ignored by everyone she passes. Back home, we discover life’s perhaps even less forgiving for her daughter and caretaker Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer, petrifying in slim black eye-liner). Recently divorced and still struggling to find employment in the crushing enormity of New York, her lone saving grace is her pension-approved mother, who’s slowly decaying within the dark, gloomy amber enclosures of her apartment. In a jarring establishing shot, we’re introduced to Kyra and her mother, Ruth, in maximum obscurity, only slight slivers of their bodies visible between the cracked doors of their apartment. Even before her mother’s inevitable passing, Kyra is already just as neglected.
Aside from the burgeoning interest of Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), Kyra’s social and business prospects descend ever more quickly once Ruth moves on to, surely, a better place. One humiliating application slip-up after another, every reasonable job opportunity flits out of her grasp. All the while, editor Oriana Soddu brings us repeatedly back to the film’s opening motif, of Kyra’s mother, covered and withered, slowly, excruciatingly making her way across the screen. What seemingly starts as an oppressive omen of the vagabond lifestyle awaiting Kyra eventually reveals itself to be, shockingly, an even more depressing, demeaning future for our crumbling lead. As majestically shot by recent Oscar nominee Bradford Young (Arrival), Brooklyn is a dank, dingy purgatory, draining its inhabitants of every ounce of life, love and dignity they have left.
There’s hardly a dash of levity in Dosunmu’s film, the only fleeting moment of joy, Kyra jump-roping at an apartment complex gathering, being solemnly slowed into a kind of wrenching elegy for the last moments of happiness one feels in their life. Even at 98 minutes, Where is Kyra crawls dourly along with the pace and discipline of a Romanian New Wave film. If there’s any joy to be derived from this crushing experience, it’s in once again getting to watch Michelle Pfeiffer stunningly persevere onscreen. While her face and body may be devastatingly obscured for most of the film, she gets two shining moments, both dark and demanding long takes. Whether she’s explaining how her search has brought her low or we simply see it on her broken, deadening face, Pfeiffer holds our fascination through the musty thicket of Dosunmu’s commanding, if insurmountably challenging, latest.

By Lena Houst | FILM MISERY


A Pfeiffer Portrait of Devastating Despair

The year of Michelle Pfeiffer continues. We’ve seen the trailer and pictures from Murder on the Orient Express. We’ve seen the poster for mother! (sacrilege she’s not on it). We’ve seen her on HBO as Ruth Madoff. And now her Sundance film, Where is Kyra?, made its way to Brooklyn and played at BAMCinemaFest last weekend.
Andrew Dosunmu (Mother of George) collaborates once again with Bradford Young to gorgeous results. This time Pfeiffer’s transfixing visage supplements their beautiful frames with movie star magic…
The story follows Kyra, a 50-something out of work recent divorcee who’s falling into a pit of hopelessness. She can’t find work and her elderly mother, on whose pension she relies, suddenly dies. She meets another person trying to stay afloat (Kiefer Sutherland) and even genuine affection and companionship does not seem to help either of them. It’s a devastating story of utter despair and the crazy choices it forces on Kyra.
Dosunmu said that he was inspired by Cindy Sherman, and every frame is a tableau come to sumptuous life. And in Pfeiffer’s face he’s found the perfect vessel. Whole scenes play just on her face even when other actors are present in the scene. It’s intimate yet unsettling because of the melancholic story. I was the beat up little seagull watching this. It was hard to watch because Pfeiffer makes one root hard for Kyra even as she makes one disastrous choice after another. The film hits close to home. We could all become Kyra, suddenly too old to find employment. So I was grateful for the one homage to Pfeiffer’s stardom, a slo-mo scene of her joyfully jumping rope with a few kids.
Unfortunately the film does not have a US distributor yet. We can understand why. This is the type of movie that luxuriates in the ritual of preparing a bath and devotes many minutes to taking it in. But come on, it’s Pfeiffer. It’s Pfeiffer in almost every frame. It can be marketed just as that. Many will be there opening weekend for her. Don’t deny us this movie, money people.

By Murtada | the FILM EXPERIENCE


Where is Kyra? at BAM Cinemafest

I cannot get the film Where is Kyra? out of my mind. I saw it on Saturday night as part of the BAM Cinemafest programme, and it had been one of the films I wanted to see at Sundance earlier this year, but just couldn’t make the scheduling work out. I’m learning more and more that things happen when they need to, so it seemed like Saturday’s screening was the right time to catch the film.
I went with my friend Mathoto Matsetela, who was once an actress in Yizo Yizo, the critically-acclaimed youth drama series Andrew Dosunmu used to direct when he was in South Africa. The Nigerian-born director has since then cemented his reputation, based here in the US, with Restless City and Mother of George – films that paint vivid portraits of identity and desperation, through his fruitful collaboration with cinematographer Bradford Young. For Where is Kyra? Dosunmu re-teamed with both Young and South African composer Philip Miller, who consistently adds his voice to some of the best films coming out of the country.
I think that’s part of the reason I can’t seem to get the film out of my mind – the music and the images left their mark on me. The sharp, staccato audio illustrations of the lead character’s state of mind, combined with the bleak yet striking way her world is visually composed in the film made quite the impression. It’s the story of a woman in her 50s who returns home to New York to look after her ailing mother, but cannot find a job to survive and is pushed to an utter extreme out of her despair. Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent in this role – Dosunmu told us later it was her first indie part, and they shot the film in 17 days. She gives it so much, immersing herself into a woman, past her so-called prime, whose face has etched into it memories of being married and employed and part of the normal running of life, who now just doesn’t know what to do.
As we go along with Kyra’s job search and the half-hearted relationship that’s unfolding with holding-down-two-jobs Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), we see what it’s like to age in a city that requires non-stop energy to keep going. Dosunmu said he wanted to ask what it’s like to grow old here, in a society where people don’t really honour their elders, and many of them end up being kept pretty much out of sight. It made me think of the old people I see on the streets of NYC, slowly pushing their shopping carts or hobbling from one corner to another. Dosunmu spoke about the cultural differences in how the elderly are perceived in Nigeria, where aging is celebrated, versus what he’s come to see here in the US.
There’s another reason the film struck such a chord. It’s because I’ve come so close to that desperation that I saw in Kyra’s – Pfeiffer’s – eyes. Living in this city, where I’m a freelancer subject to the whims of whenever people see fit to pay my invoices has put me in many a tough financial situation, and it’s a terrible feeling. I’ve never had to resort to Pfeiffer’s methods but she and Dosunmu touch that nerve so closely that it’s unsettling. Luckily, I still have enough energy to keep bouncing from my setbacks. Dosumnu’s film will no doubt inspire empathy and a little more compassion towards those who perhaps don’t.

By Miss Ntertainment





Sundance Film Festival Reviews

January 23, 2017

The Year of La Pfeiffer kicks off with “Where is Kyra?”, official selected by Sundance Film Festival and had its first screening two days ago in The Marc. A couple of reviews just online with two best things about the movie: Michelle Pfeiffer & The Beautiful Cinematography. SCREENDAILY described the movie is a powerfully moody character study anchored by a remarkable performance from Michelle Pfeiffer, while yahoo said it’s a diverse slate of movies that should highlight Pfeiffer’s rich range as a performer — and make us miss her all over again.
Here’s the full article of the reviews:

Brooding ‘Where is Kyra?’ revels in dimly-lit misery

“WHERE IS KYRA?” — 2 stars — Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland; not rated, probable R for profanity, sexual content and nudity; Sundance Film Festival
There are people who prefer happy endings and people who enjoy the mixed emotions of a bittersweet ending. Neither group will particularly enjoy “Where is Kyra?,” a brooding film from director Andrew Dosunmu that seems to revel in its misery.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Kyra, a middle-aged woman in Brooklyn who lives with her elderly mother, Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd). Kyra has been out of work for some time, in spite of her continued efforts to apply for menial jobs around the city. When her mother passes away, Kyra takes one of her mother’s last Social Security checks to the bank and learns that it can only be cashed by the recipient.
Bit by bit, the walls close in. Kyra sells the few items around the apartment with any resale value and keeps missing employment opportunities, aside from a humiliating part-time job passing out flyers on street corners. Eventually she starts dressing up like her mother and hiding her eyes behind large sunglasses so she can cash her mother’s Social Security checks, which are still coming for some reason.
While stopping by a local bar, Kyra meets Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), a local cab driver and longtime tenant of her building. Kyra and Doug soon discover that misery loves company and embark on a half-cocked, mostly sexual relationship that leads to even more disastrous results once Doug discovers how Kyra has been paying her bills.
Through elements like dramatic lighting and grinding pacing, Dosunmu has created a mood and tone that are absolutely soul-draining. Every scene seems to take place in the dark — even those shot in the light of day — and interiors are rarely given more than the light of a small lamp to illuminate the shadow-draped actors. Desperate to cheer themselves up, audience members might wonder aloud whether the film’s title, “Where is Kyra?” is referring to the literal challenge of actually seeing the actress in the scene.
Dosunmu matches his dreary and haunting visuals with a bleak, lagging pace that sucks the audience into the same depressive state as his protagonists. It feels like an effective setup for a powerful third-act resolution but, without revealing too much, audiences shouldn’t get their hopes up. Dosunmu’s message in “Where is Kyra?” seems to be that life is miserable … and then it gets worse.
The lone exception to the film’s vibe is a curious tone-breaking element of punctuating several intermittent scenes with jarring industrial soundtrack clangs, which feel more appropriate for an indie horror film, before returning to the film’s usual muted atmosphere.
“Where is Kyra?” ultimately represents one of the biggest challenges in film criticism: Can you fault a film that is exactly what it wants to be? Dosunmu’s film is dramatically shot and powerfully acted, but it is difficult to endure. This may be exactly what he is going for, but the payoff just isn’t there. One thing the film has going for it are the performances of its veteran leads. Pfeiffer and Sutherland are marvelously effective in their roles. The problem is that they are dramatically effective at a hugely depressing thing.
“Where is Kyra?” is not rated, but would receive a probable R rating for profanity, sexual content and nudity; running time: 98 minutes.

By Joshua Terry | Deseret News Family


Michelle Pfeiffer excels in an intimate story about a woman on the edge of financial ruin.

One might as well ask: Where was Michelle Pfeiffer? The actor is back like she hasn’t been in years—like never before, really—in this superb, downbeat drama about a divorced Brooklyn woman slipping through the economic cracks. One of the most iconic actors of the ’80s and ’90s, Pfeiffer supplied moxie to Scarface and Married to the Mob, and exquisite radiance to The Age of Innocence. And while those qualities peek through in her performance of the title role of Where Is Kyra?, this is more of an opportunity for subtler shades of regret, nervousness, wary reconnection and, ultimately, desperation. Pfeiffer is nothing short of heartbreaking in a part that requires her to be completely unvarnished.
As we learn through minimal shards of visual information, Kyra lives with her aging, failing mother in a dingy one-bedroom apartment thirsting for sunlight. (Shot by Arrival’s gifted cinematographer Bradford Young, the movie takes drab interiors to a depressing new low, swallowing up Pfeiffer in dark fields of gloom.) She’s childless, friendless and constantly on the job hunt, toting a purse crammed with spare bus change. And when the one person in her life is suddenly gone, Kyra—wrecked by grief and a loneliness that will be shaded in over time—has zero income. She can’t legally cash her mother’s government checks.
Above and beyond his commendable interest in an all-too-real tragedy for many, co-writer-director Andrew Dosunmu (Mother of George) has made a proper old-school indie, one that feels as scrappy as its main character and which keeps its incident to a drip. Instead, the momentum plays wholly on Pfeiffer’s face: her growing worry and small-hours math. (A shrieking metal-on-metal score by Philip Miller is slightly on the nose.) Kyra ends up throwing herself at another struggling soul she meets in a bar, Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), who is either her last chance at happiness or a convenient stave against potential eviction. Where Is Kyra? has the build of a galvanizing short story, and if it feels too meager for a feature, that’s on us to adjust to its insistent beat of personal ruination.

4 Stars

By Joshua Rothkopf | TIMEOUT


‘Where Is Kyra?’ Review: Michelle Pfeiffer Gives Her Best Performance in Years in This Sad Little Drama — Sundance 2017

The director of “Mother of George” returns with this imperfect but undeniably haunting showcase for the actress.

It’s been years since we’ve been treated to a great Michelle Pfeiffer performance, and “Where Is Kyra” finally gives her that platform. The tragic, understated character study from “Mother of George” director Andrew Dosunmu constructs a hypnotic portrait of despair out of Pfeiffer’s sullen expression; opposite Kiefer Sutherland as her romantic interest, Pfieffer anchors this shadowy New York mood piece about a despondent middle-aged woman wrestling to find a modicum of stability.
Dosunmu’s atmospheric approach, which derives much of its style from long takes and lengthier pauses, provides both actors with the most experimental cinematic challenge of their resumes to date, and they tackle the assignment with palpable depth. “Where Is Kyra” falls short of channeling their performances into a fully satisfying whole, but it nevertheless fuses the talent of an ambitious filmmaker with actors eager to operate on his wavelength. “Mother of George” and “Restless City” proved Dosunmu had a penchant for eloquent stories about marginalized lives, and “Where Is Kyra?” solidifies his calculated approach.
Nearly half an hour passes before the title card comes up, and Dosunmu uses the time to develop an introduction to Kyra’s life. Living in a cramped apartment with her ailing mother, Kyra’s a divorced and unemployed bookkeeper with little apparent purpose beyond the care she puts into keeping the dying woman comfortable. When she does die, Kyra’s left uncertain about her next moves, her loneliness compounded by pressing financial problems when she realizes she can’t access her late mother’s funds. Dosunmu gradually assembles these details while lingering in the sad, quiet moments that define Kyra’s existence: Her oddly vapid expression as she rides the subway to her mother’s house, and the seconds that drag by after she turns off her mother’s oxygen, go great lengths toward immersing us in the haunting rhythms of this world.
Dosunmu’s regular cinematographer Bradford Young (who has entered the big leagues since “Mother of George” with “Selma,” “Arrival” and an upcoming “Star Wars” film to his name) bathe most of the interior scenes in darkness, often to the point where the characters appear in silhouette, an effective means of evoking their fragile mindsets. That approach extends to Doug (Sutherland), the lonely alcoholic who picks up Kyra at a grungy bar and quickly becomes her only support system. But their courtship has an aura of desperation; when they first sleep together, Donsunmu lingers on the remarkable shot of her wrinkled arms dangling from the top of the bed and whittle away into the surrounding darkness.
Much of the movie finds Kyra wandering the streets in search of any job; when she realizes even minimum wage table gigs aren’t readily available, she winds up handing out flyers on the street. Her situation is slightly underdeveloped, but ultimately fuels a key decision that puts her in greater danger than she anticipated, as “Where Is Kyra?” pivots from a grim drama to suspense.
At its best, the movie captures the gritty feel of a New York movie that could have been made 40 years ago; individual scenes of Kyra wandering the crowded sidewalk wouldn’t look out of place in “Panic in Needle Park.” But Dosunmu show less interest in advancing Kyra’s story than hovering in her despair, twisting the knife deeper with relentless pressure. While her story is unfailingly gorgeous, the stiff aesthetic has a stultifying effect on the developing tension.
Nevertheless, the movie casts an unmistakable spell out of Pfeiffer’s ability to imbue Kyra with a profound sense of sorrow. The camera observes her face in extreme, unflattering closeups that uncover a patchwork of regrets, help to explain the self-destructive decisions she makes that lead to a thrilling confrontation in the movie’s climax. “Where Is Kyra?” ends as it begins, on Pfeiffer’s face, this time bathed in bright colors that suggest she’s at once awake to the world and trapped by it.

Grade: B-

By Eric Kohn | IndieWire


Where Is Kyra? Sundance 2017 Review

So much of so many film festivals — Sundance especially — feel enormously focused on metropolitan life, New York City in particular. In Where Is Kyra?, director Andrew Dosunmu finds fertile ground in this well-worn location. Starring an against-type and utterly fascinating Michelle Pfeiffer as the titular Kyra, the film narrows in on the tragedy of getting old in America.
Written by Darci Picoult and lensed by the great (and recently Oscar-nominated) Bradford Young, this film lives in the shadows, both visually and conversationally. Kyra is an unemployed, middle-aged woman looking after her elderly mother (Suzanne Shepherd). After her mother’s death, she finds herself alone in a big, noisy city with no money and a sufficient lack of job prospects. When her credit card is declined trying to buy a drink at a local bar, a handsome neighbor named Doug (Kiefer Sutherland) enters the picture.
In handling her mother’s affairs, Kyra makes crucial mistake that opens a door to some easy, illegal money. As she tenderly walks this path, we see the inevitable end in sight. Luckily, Dosunmu is less concerned about the destination than he is about the journey. Young wraps every single scene of the picture with frames that are fractured, dour and complicated. In no other film from this year’s festival has the camera said more. Consider an opening shot in which Kyra prepares to bathe her mother, waiting patiently in the tub. The camera observes from afar, until a door is opened and a reflection is revealed that transform the same shot into something wholly new and interesting without ever adjusting the frame.
It feels like we haven’t seen Pfeiffer in years, and that’s mostly true. Most recently, she’s added The Family, People Like Us, Dark Shadows to her resume, all of which came out a near half-decade ago. This is a more fully-realized performance than anything she’s done in some time. Physical in every conceivable way (without giving too much away), it’s the kind of turn that will hopefully draw attention back to this talented performer. Sutherland is also commendable as Kyra’s potential knight in shining armor, a good man with a past he’s continually trying to make amends for.
Of course, this is not a world with knights. It’s barely a world with people who pay attention to one another. Dosunmu and company attempt to reflect this isolation with a music score that includes a fascinatingly aggravating industrial grind sound that plays over Kyra roaming the city. It is loud and brutal and unforgettable. In other moments, Kyra stands below an above-ground subway as it passes by, the train blaring violently.
This is the kind of city where people are forgotten and nobody gives it a second thought. As Kyra continues to melt away, despite all Doug does to help, we feel sympathy and understanding, but also feel there’s nothing to be done. This is the world we’re living in. A tough, cynical lesson to be sure, but one clearly delivered.

Grade: B+

By Dan Mecca | THE FILM STAGE


Sundance Film Review: ‘Where Is Kyra?’

A soul-searing Michelle Pfeiffer makes a welcome return in Andrew Dosunmu’s difficult, visually stunning study in psychic pain.

There’s an awful lot of ravishing beauty on display in “Where Is Kyra?,” Nigerian-born filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu’s startling new visual ode to life on the New York fringes, and it’s safe to say the characters on screen see none of it. Through the lens of ingenious cinematographer Bradford Young, dingy apartment corridors turn to blazing crimson purgatories, drab Goodwill ensembles turn to iridescent haute couture, and the extraordinary face of Michelle Pfeiffer remains, well, that same extraordinary face — though one senses that Kyra, the near-destitute divorcee she plays to scarring effect in this downward-spiraling economic tragedy, long ago stopped seeing anything in the mirror.
Every bit as formally exciting as Dosunmu’s previous film, 2013’s glorious Yoruba-focused drama “Mother of George,” “Where Is Kyra?” proves a cooler, less emotionally rewarding experience, with Darci Picoult’s ultra-lean script giving Pfeiffer’s fearless performance fewer notes to play as it goes along. Commercial interest in “Kyra” will be sparse as a result: Though the casting of Pfeiffer and Kiefer Sutherland hinted at a crossover project for Dosunmu, this is daring, even radical work that asserts its maker’s singularity first and foremost. For Pfeiffer, meanwhile, one hopes this will prove a gateway into the kind of independent cinema where her crisp, canny gifts as an actor are both wanted and needed. After a four-year absence from screens, preceded by such wasteful commercial projects as “The Family,” it’s a positive joy to see her playing a living, breathing, bruised human being — even if “joy” is not a word likely to be re-used in any description of this sad, shattered character study.
Dosunmu and Picoult take their time in revealing the exact circumstances of Kyra’s misfortune, though Young’s shadow-wrapped images plunge us immediately into her forlorn headspace. In a masterfully constructed shot near the outset, viewed through not one but two doors left ajar, Kyra and her ailing mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd) are viewed pensively alone in neighboring rooms, before Kyra joins Ruth to assist with bathtime — an aching tableau of tender weariness, all caught in a mere sliver of the frame. Dosunmu and Young make us wait for a closeup, and viewers might feel they’re squinting to see Kyra clearly in the permanent gloaming of her mother’s tired Brooklyn apartment.
That’s no accident in a portrait of a woman at whom nobody cares to truly look. Not the few, shuffling guests at the funeral after Ruth quietly passes. Not the bosses at the grim, cheap offices and diners she trudges through for failed job interview after failed job interview. And in what becomes a narratively crucial point, certainly not the tellers at the bank where she cashes Ruth’s  disability checks. Even in close-up she threatens to vanish, as whole planes of Pfeiffer’s face are masked by Young’s velvety shadows: Without a word of rhetoric from the script, Dosunmu pointedly illustrates how society renders single women above a certain age invisible. In a recurring image, introduced in the opening shot and contextualized as the narrative progresses, a stooped, elderly-looking woman struggles along the sidewalk, her face obscured — a bleak symbol of sorts for society’s disenfranchised, here granted the admittedly dim spotlight.
Slowly the specifics of Kyra’s desperation trickle out, though it’s nothing you couldn’t guess at: the recent collapse of a longstanding marriage in Virginia, being made redundant from her job there, moving back home. It’s sob story to which only scuzzy, tattooed slacker Doug (Sutherland), whose life is perhaps one iota more assembled than Kyra’s, lends a listening ear; to her surprise, a casual romance develops between them, but it’s clear that this is not a world of happily-ever-afters. (Or happily-ever-befores, for that matter.)
The sheer monotony of Kyra’s despair is appropriately oppressive — if she doesn’t get a break from her life, neither should the audience — though it does make Dosunmu’s film an increasingly tough, alienating sit. (Philip Miller’s metallic, sometimes screechingly abrasive score, while in tune with our protagonist’s inner agony, doesn’t make it any easier.) The emotional range of Pfeiffer’s riveting performance isn’t a broad one, though this frequently nonverbal film is entirely reliant on her cutting powers of expression as she progresses from harrowed to exhausted and back, at risk of disappearing into herself entirely.
It’s ostensibly a generous showcase for the actress, and certainly her strongest screen role since 2002’s “White Oleander.” But Pfeiffer rather selflessly applies herself as a component in Dosunmu’s intoxicating mise-en-scène, blending into and assuming the mood of its exacting compositions. Young has been practicing and expanding his signature aesthetic of intimate underlighting in ever larger projects — recently nabbing a deserved Oscar nomination for his work on Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival.” “Where Is Kyra?” returns him to his small-scale roots in a seductive, quasi-experimental manner, playing liberally with saturated color, extreme depth of field and the manifold textures of darkness. As a painter of light on human skin, he may be without current equal in American cinema: A key sustained shot of Pfeiffer’s face in unhappy repose, as dancing emergency-services lights change its angles and accents, is this challenging film’s most brilliant example of thespian and filmic technique in perfect symbiosis.

By Guy Lodge | VARIETY


Sundance: Pfeiffer in Her Best Roles in Years

Andrew Dosunmu’s Where Is Kyra? and Miguel Arteta’s Beatriz at Dinner appear to have very little in common other than the fact that they both feature a star actress getting her biggest and best role in years: Michelle Pfeiffer in the former, Salma Hayek in the latter. But if recent months have taught us anything, it is that everything means something more now — that every film, good or bad, reverberates out into a world of pain and fear and political urgency.
Pfeiffer is often the sole figure onscreen in Where Is Kyra?, playing a Brooklyn woman who falls into increasingly dire circumstances after the passing of her ailing mother, whom she had been taking care of for some time. Unable to find any work — she’s either too old, too late, or too poor to get the gigs — Pfeiffer’s Kyra descends further into desperation. She strikes a romantic relationship with a nursing home attendant (played by Kiefer Sutherland) who himself is trying to stay on the straight and narrow after screwing up his life. He’s poor, too, but at least he has money for beer and food, and he likes spending it on her. Is she with him because she needs help, or does she really care for him? The reasons aren’t clear to us — and they’re probably not clear to Kyra either.
The story turns on what might have been just a quirky plot-point in another movie: When mom’s pension checks keep coming even after her death, Kyra begins dressing as the dead woman to try and cash them at the bank. This is not, however, the story of a grifter or a welfare cheat. It’s about the things we do to survive in extreme circumstances, and Dosunmu’s grim gaze never wavers from Kyra’s predicament. The director, whose last film was the sublime Mother of George (written, like Kyra, by Darci Picoult) and cinematographer Bradford Young sheathe Kyra in oppressive darkness, and they hold on her for extended periods — even when other characters are speaking or acting. Close-ups often show her half-concealed in the gloom, emerging from pitch-black corners of the screen. No lamp gives off enough light, no street scene is bright enough. A pall has descended over this woman’s life. Rarely on film has the sheer debilitating exhaustion of poverty been so clearly conveyed.
The director is fond of static, off-balance compositions with very shallow focus, but he also likes to point his camera directly into his actress’s face, one of the great visages of modern cinema. Pfeiffer is beautiful, but when we look at Kyra we see is fatigue, anger, loneliness, hopelessness. The way Dosunmu shoots her, she feels somehow both fragile and unchanging: It wouldn’t take much to turn Kyra herself into a blur, to erase her from the screen completely; but the broader sorrow that she represents will never go away. Where Is Kyra? She’s in the midst of disappearing, but she’s also everywhere.

By Bilge Ebiri | LA WEEKLY


‘Where Is Kyra?’: Sundance Review

A shattering portrait of a luckless woman unable to pull out of the tailspin that is her life, Where Is Kyra? is a powerfully moody character study anchored by a remarkable performance from Michelle Pfeiffer. The new film from Mother Of George director Andrew Dosunmu flirts with tragedy at every step, but the confidence of the filmmaking and the steely resolve in Pfeiffer’s eyes keep the viewer hoping that the titular middle-aged protagonist will find her way clear of the debt and depression that have laid her low. The resolution of Kyra’s dilemma is both startling and perfectly in keeping with Dosunmu’s observant, clear-eyed approach.
Premiering at Sundance, Where Is Kyra? will undoubtedly be billed as Pfeiffer’s comeback after more than a decade of forgettable supporting roles. This intimate drama about a character spiralling out of control may be too bleak for mainstream crowds, but strong reviews should propel the film to modest art-house success.
As Where Is Kyra? begins, Kyra (Pfeiffer) is caring for her aged mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd) in New York — but soon, the inevitable occurs and Ruth dies. Kyra, who seems to have no one else in her life, is distraught, but a more worrying concern presents itself when she can’t cash her mother’s disability checks. Out of work for two years and unable to afford the rent for Ruth’s apartment, Kyra panics, with only a handsome neighbour, Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), to rely on.
Dosunmu reunites with Mother Of George cinematographer Bradford Young for Where Is Kyra?, and the two collaborators craft a sumptuous, low-lit New York in which a literal and metaphorical darkness is encroaching into the characters’ world. On paper, Where Is Kyra?’s storyline might feel familiar, calling to mind dramas such as Time Out Of Mind and The Pursuit Of Happyness in which major stars play characters battling poverty or homelessness. But Dosunmu and Young’s ravishingly sombre visual design strips away any romanticism from the proceedings, plunging us into the gritty desperation of Kyra’s predicament.
Similarly, Darci Picoult’s spare screenplay presents this anxious love story between Kyra and Doug as one built out of shared loneliness. Sutherland’s muted turn expertly captures a character who’s trying to remake himself after past, unspecified failures, and the two actors’ rapport is edgy and weary — as if a happy ending isn’t something they’ve ever allowed themselves the luxury to consider.
With her funds dwindling, Kyra decides to do something rash, dressing up in her late mother’s bulky clothes and dark sunglasses in order to deposit Ruth’s checks. Unquestionably, this is a stupid plan, and in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, it would seem so preposterous that the audience would find the plot development laughable. But it’s a credit to Dosunmu and Pfeiffer that, not only do we accept this narrative twist, we understand why Kyra has been driven to such a foolish course of action.
In small, select moments, Where Is Kyra? intriguingly fleshes out the character’s backstory, and the telling details suggest a woman who seems to be a magnet for unfortunate circumstances. Pfeiffer is absorbing in the role, but it’s not a scene-chewing performance. Rather, she quietly burrows into Kyra’s twitchy anxiety, making us feel the character’s growing helplessness.
That panic only escalates after she begins her check-cashing scheme — and, later, when she runs afoul of the police. No one would confuse Where Is Kyra? with a thriller, but Dosunmu subtly cranks up the suspense so beautifully that, when Kyra’s moment of truth arrives, we’re astonished by its emotional wallop. But even at the end, Pfeiffer’s fiery eyes stare at us, hinting at Kyra’s untold depths of agony and disappointment that this marvellously conceived film have only begun to explore.

By Tim Grierson, Senior US Critic | SCREENDAILY


Michelle Pfeiffer stars as a destitute New York woman in director Andrew Dosunmu’s follow-up to his earlier Sundance titles ‘Mother of George’ and ‘Restless City.’

Poverty and destitution never looked as gorgeous as they do in the moody arthouse drama Where is Kyra? The third fiction feature from Sundance regular Andrew Dosunmu, after Mother of George and Restless City, casts Michelle Pfeiffer as an unemployed New Yorker whose money troubles grow exponentially after the death of her mother, who received a disability pension. This leads Kyra to do something rather radical that her sort-of boyfriend, played by Kiefer Sutherland, does not approve of.
Shot by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival) in what is arguably his career-best work in terms of the camerawork’s sheer breathtaking beauty, Where is Kyra? sheds a most exquisitely modulated penumbral light on those in the margins of society that would normally remain invisible. Whether there is an audience for such a heavily aestheticized take on the hardships of poverty remains to be seen, however, and the film’s biggest commercial hurdle will likely be to try and avoid the moniker “poverty porn” at all costs.
The film opens with a long shot of an old lady slowly shuffling along a nondescript street in Queens in the mid-distance and variations on this image reappear throughout the film. It not only establishes Dosunmu’s most important visual leitmotif up front but also functions as a kind of litmus test for the audience: If you think this drawn-out, wordless scene is slow and/or devoid of interest, this movie is definitely not for you.
The screenwriter of Mother of George, Darci Picoult, wrote this film’s screenplay as well and her work here isn’t very dialogue-heavy. As if to mirror that idea visually, Nigerian-born Dosunmu and Young initially don’t even seem all that interested in the faces of the characters, with the early going playing out in medium shots, in which most of the action occurs behind doorposts or beyond a mirror frame, or in closer shots with an extremely limited depth of field. Even during the day, the light levels in the duo’s modest apartment are low, enveloping the characters in gorgeously textured shadows. Still, it is possible to piece together an idea of what is happening: the ailing Ruth (the great Suzanne Shepherd) needs the help of her middle-aged daughter, Kyra (Pfeiffer), to do things as simple as take a bath. Or perhaps she pretends that she does, so that the out-of-work Kyra doesn’t feel entirely useless around the house and feels like she deserves her share of her mom’s disability checks.
Perhaps the first time in which we get a proper look at Kyra is an unexpected shot of her while taking public transportation. The close-up is so tight we don’t see if there are even any other people riding with her but even so, the framing and the rather surreal play of light around and behind her suggests Kyra is something of an alien or at least an outsider. Indeed, Dosunmu often resorts to visuals rather than dialogue to tell the story, especially in the opening stretch, with audiences forced to piece together an idea of where this might be going before the director starts giving some clues after the death of Ruth, still pre-title card but already almost 20 minutes in.
The bulk of the film is concerned with Kyra’s ever-growing desperation as she fails to find a job and her money problems keep growing; her cards max out; the heating and then her phone — the latter crucially important when waiting for answers on job applications — get cut off and the threat of eviction looms. Unexpectedly, she strikes up a friendship-with-benefits of sorts with Doug (Sutherland), who works several odd jobs to keep afloat and who unexpectedly takes a shine to Kyra. In one of the film’s boldest visual moves, Dosunmu and Young keep their camera focused on their titular heroine at almost all times, with Doug often off-camera even when he’s speaking. It is here that a possible second meaning of the title starts to crystallize: We constantly see Kyra physically but is anyone still there, mentally? Is it possible for someone so consumed by her misfortune and constant money worries to still have dreams, desires and a personality?
Many of Kyra’s short-stop visits to dingy eateries and cluttered offices to ask for work are lit and framed in a way that recalls the striking urban loneliness of the paintings of Edward Hopper. And Philip Miller’s sparingly used, semi-experimental score screeches with agony and despair but in a way that feels more Williamsburg hipster than primal. Seen the continued emphasis on these technical elements, a second question emerges: Is it possible for a viewer to be touched by a character’s predicament and despair when every element of their life is so strikingly arranged? Because Pfeiffer disappears into her role and plays it small, and because Dosunmu’s modus operandi privileges visuals and the unspoken over dialogue and facile melodrama, the film sort of gets away with it, if just barely.

By Boyd van Hoeij | THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER


Sundance Report: Gloomy ‘Where Is Kyra?’ Marks Michelle Pfeiffer’s Latest Big Screen Comeback

Once a prominent fixture on movie screens, Michelle Pfeiffer sightings have become increasingly rare in recent years. It’s not that the three time Oscar-nominated actress — whose string of ‘80s and ‘90s hits include Married to the Mob, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Batman Returns and Dangerous Minds — has stopped performing; it’s more that she tends to work in batches, appearing in several films in a compressed time frame and then taking a prolonged break. The last time we were treated to multiple Pfeiffer features was 2012-2013, with back-to-back appearances in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, Alex Kurtzman’s People Like Us and Luc Besson’s The Family.
Now, after a four-year break, 2017 is shaping up to be a four-film Pfeiffersance, one that kicks off with her Sundance debut, Where is Kyra?, a psychological drama directed by festival veteran Andrew Dosunmu, whose previous features, 2011’s Restless City and 2013’s Mother of George, both premiered in Park City. Her big year continues in May with The Wizard of Lies, HBO’s dramatization of the infamous Bernie Madoff case, with Pfeiffer playing Madoff’s wife Ruth opposite Robert De Niro. She’s also a part of two end-of-year Oscar hopefuls, Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic Murder on the Orient Express and Darren Aronofsky’s mysterious new film Mother, also starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.
Taken as a whole, it’s a diverse slate of movies that should highlight Pfeiffer’s rich range as a performer — and make us miss her all over again if she opts to take another multi-year break when 2018 rolls around. She’s certainly the driving force of Kyra, a stridently glum movie where the oppressive style frequently threatens to overwhelm her subtly shaded work. Pfeiffer plays the title character, a middle-aged woman living in in a gloomy Queens apartment two years after losing her job and leaving her marriage. Initially certain that she’ll be able to support herself, a steady stream of rejections even for menial day gigs has dealt a massive blow to her self-confidence. When we meet her, she’s a virtual shut-in whose main job is caring for her infirm mother. And even that small piece of stability is abruptly pulled away when her mom dies, leaving Kyra with mounting debts and no way to begin paying them off.
Well…no way, save one. Due to a filing mistake on the death certificate, Kyra is still receiving her mother’s pension checks, though she can’t cash them on Mom’s behalf. So she dons a grey wig and dark sunglasses and picks up a cane to impersonate her mother in order to collect the meager amounts that just barely cover her expenses. Clearly, this is a plan doomed to fail: Kyra knows it, her new boyfriend — reformed troublemaker Doug (Kiefer Sutherland) — knows it, and the audience knows it, too. So the question that underlines the movie isn’t “Will Kyra be caught,” but rather, “When will Kyra be caught…and how much of her mind will be left intact?”
Working with celebrated cinematographer Bradford Young — who just received an Oscar nomination for his terrific lensing of Arrival — Dosunmu pursues a photographic style that’s heavy on shadows, a visual metaphor for Kyra’s descent into increasingly dark places. It’s an appropriate thematic conceit in theory, but in execution, the film’s severe gloom has the unwelcome impact of obscuring the actors’ faces in key dramatic moments, threatening to blunt the full impact of their performances. If you’re film is primarily a character study, it helps for the audience to be able to see the characters.
Fortunately, Pfeiffer resourcefully communicates Kyra’s increasing desperation through the other tools in her arsenal including voice, posture and gesture. (Sutherland, meanwhile, relies mainly on that gravelly voice that served him so well while running hither and yon on 24 for all those years.) Perhaps it helps that she’s played a variation this role before: in some ways, Kyra feels like who Pfeiffer’s buttoned-up Selina Kyle might have become had she not found a new lease on life by donning that infamous rubber catsuit. Selina went from introvert to extrovert, whereas Kyra withdraws further and further into herself until she can’t find a way out of her self-designed trap. Where is Kyra? itself may be a non-starter, but Pfeiffer begins her comeback year on solid footing.

By Ethan Alter | YAHOO! MOVIES


‘Where Is Kyra?’ With Michelle Pfeiffer And Kiefer Sutherland Is Beautifully Lit But An Inert Slog [Sundance Review]

PARK CITY – Bradford Young earned his first Oscar nomination today for “Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve’s moving Sci-Fi drama. The night before his second collaboration with director Andrew Dosunmu, “Where is Kyra?” debuted at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Both films are examples of his expert cinematography skills as there are few people on this planet that can light a room like it’s the canvas of a 17th century Vermeer. The problem with Dosunmu’s follow up to the more compelling “Mother of George” is that there is so little story and what story there is moves at such a snail’s pace  all you have to look at are Young’s impressive compositions and wait. And then wait some more.
The plot is quite simple. Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a middle-aged, divorced woman who has moved to New York to take care of her ailing mother (Suzanne Shepherd). After she passes sooner than expected, Kyra discovers that there’s been a mistake with the death certificate that will hinder her getting some sort of income (likely her mother’s life insurance). As she waits the four to six weeks for the certificate to be fixed she becomes increasingly stressed looking for work. She has her own mountain of bills to pay (even Young can make Pfeiffer calculating receipts on a comforter look heavenly) and the only income she can find is from handing flyers out on the street.
With no friends and only an ex-husband hundreds of miles away the only good thing to happen in Kyra’s life is Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), a taxi driver with dreams of some day owning his own cab. Eventually, Kyra becomes so desperate for money she masquerades as her mother in order to cash the pension checks that are still arriving every few weeks.  It’s a dangerous game, but she eventually is willing to do anything not to hit rock bottom let alone kicked out of her mother’s apartment,.
These trips to the bank are the few times there is any dramatic tension in the film whatsoever and even that is mitigated by the fact they unfold so slowly. In disguise as an elderly woman Kyra walks as slow as a turtle and Dosunmu let’s the camera hold on her often for minutes at a time. It becomes tiresome to watch her journey in the bank lobby from the entrance to the teller window.
Sadly, Pfeiffer and Sutherland are pretty much wasted here. The former attempts to cast more shading on her character, but Dosunmu and screenwriter Darci Picoult give her little backstory to work with. So much so that the pacing often gives you enough time to actually ponder Kyra’s past in a way that distracts from the proceedings on screen (Does she really have no one else that can help her? Why doesn’t she apply for jobs online at the library? Or take what she has and move to a different state? Has she tried any employment services in NYC? Seriously, you have time to wonder about every possible option). Sutherland, who Young somehow makes look 10 years younger than he is, spends most of his time trying to make Kyra feel better about her situation even if his character doesn’t have the real financial means to do so.
By the end of the movie you are struck by a striking image Young has conceived that flashes at you hypnotically. It’s so beautiful you just want to put it loop and hang it on your wall. There are a number of moments like that in “Kyra.” It’s unfortunate they do not coalesce into a cohesive and compelling piece of cinema. [C-]

By Gregory Ellwood | THE PLAYLIST


Where is Kyra?

The phrase “bleak as f*ck” comes to mind where Andrew Dosunmu and Darci Picoult’s Mother of George follow-up, Where is Kyra?, is concerned. Centered on the near hopeless plight of a middle-aged woman, Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer), attempting to eke out an existence in an unforgiving Brooklyn, New York. When we meet Kyra, she’s lost everything (i.e., her job, her marriage) except her elderly mother, Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd). Her mother, however, has a terminal illness: old age. Kyra treats her mother with care, compassion, and tenderness, qualities consistently missing from her encounters in the real world with the exception of Doug (Keifer Sutherland), a middle-aged man Kyra meets at a local bar. While they strike up a romance, it’s clearly based on mutual need, convenience, and proximity. When Ruth passes away quietly in her sleep, she doesn’t just leave Kyra bereft, she leaves her jobless daughter without a means of income. Kyra’s repeated, failed attempts to find a job, any job, including minimum wage jobs, leave her in increasingly desperate straights. That desperation leads her to make a decision that helps her cover her immediate expenses, but which, if discovered, would most likely lead to imprisonment. Picoult’s short-on-subtlety, long-on-empathy screenplay, short on subtlety, isn’t just a character study of a lone, lonely women, but meant as a stand-in of middle-aged women in general, especially single women without the family or safety net necessary to ride out financial crises. Long one of our most undervalued, underused actresses, Pfeiffer delivers a typically nuanced performance, but Dosunmu rarely allows the audience to fully see Pfeiffer, purposely hiding Pfeiffer’s face in shadow or half-shadow (there’s a metaphor in here, somewhere). Working with cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival, Selma, A Violent Year), Dosunmu relies exclusively on natural, interior lighting and a murky, gray-brown palette, often keeping his characters in deep shadows or silhouette, giving Where is Kyra? a horror film vibe, a vibe confirmed by Philip Miller’s discordant, dissonant score that plays whenever Dosunmu flashes back or forward to an old, lonely woman leaning heavily on her cane to navigate city streets. Between the repeated, resonant image and Miller’s score, we’re immersed, however briefly, in the personal, individualized horror of her experience.

By Mel Valentin | NEXT PROJECTION


Identification of a Woman: Dosunmu’s Exacting Arthouse Drama of Suffocation and Alienation

Nigerian born director Andrew Dosunmu branches out with an unexpectedly somber portrait of Brooklyn for his funereal third feature, Where is Kyra? (previously known as Beat-Up Little Seagull when the project was in production). Reuniting with Darci Picoult, the scribe of his underrated 2013 sophomore film Mother of George, the title also marks the onscreen return of actress Michelle Pfeiffer following a four year hiatus (last seen in Luc Besson’s The Family) who stars as a woman struggling to put her life back together despite some considerable economical and personal setbacks.
Single and living alone with her ailing mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd), the quiet and somewhat disconsolate Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been attempting in vain to find employment throughout various offices and restaurants in Brooklyn. When Ruth suddenly dies, Kyra is unable to stave off her mounting debt, and resorts to finding a creative solution by cashing her mother’s pension checks. A chance encounter with the lonely and divorced Doug (Kiefer Sutherland) allows Kyra a sympathetic outlet, but her inability to be honest with him greatly complicates their developing attraction to one another. Eventually, Kyra’s significant problems spiral out of control.
Urban decay and industrial alienation never looked as intoxicatingly beautiful as it does here, courtesy of Dosunmu’s reunion with DP Bradford Young (the title premieres the same week Young received a well-deserved Oscar nod for his work on Villeneuve’s Arrival). There are several tightly framed close-ups on Pfeiffer, as arrestingly beautiful as ever, although any real illuminating sequences are few and far between. This is a down-and-out portrait of Brooklyn, the brown-ish gray facades mirrored by equally gloomy, overcast skies. The screeching sound of metal as trains fly by on ceaselessly pelted tracks squeal with irksome plaintiveness on the soundtrack, which also consists of a jarring, discordant cacophony of mixed industrial noises from Philip Miller’s score, usually used to underline sequences where Kyra dons a particularly troubling masquerade. In fact, you only really get to see the faces of Pfeiffer and Sutherland in plain sight at the same time only once, by the mellow yellow light of a bedroom lamp during a moment when these downtrodden creatures of the dark are forced to surface into the grim, bitter reality of Kyra’s looming predicament.
The audience is as purposefully alienated from Kyra as she is from herself. So besotted by issues, she cannot even properly mourn for her mother (a brief but aching performance from character actress Suzanne Shepherd, perhaps best known as Big Ethel in John Water’s last film, A Dirty Shame, 2003) or even navigate the murky circumstances which robbed her of a future. Day drinking at the bar, which is where she meets Sutherland’s lonely caretaker, suggests issues with drug and alcohol addiction, in turn explaining why she roams the neon-lit hovels of Brooklyn for minimum wage positions—occupations which only add to the hopelessness of her debt.
Stylistically, this is the sort of visualization of alienation and the dissolution of identity one would attribute to the major works of Antonioni, and Pfeiffer’s Kyra plays like a relation to the Monica Vitti character of Red Desert (1964). Young’s impressive frames (he has twice won the cinematography award at Sundance, previously for his work on Mother of George, which was a tie with his own work on David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) also recalls the same sort of visualization of invisibility as seen in Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind (2014), a portrait of a homeless man, never quite a visible fixture in his own landscape.
Pfeiffer and Sutherland approach their roles realistically and with impressive subtlety. There’s no showboating to be found in Where is Kyra?, about two lonely people treading water furiously but close to drowning. The economic woes of Kyra additionally provide the film with elements of noir—we ask, not only where is Kyra, but how long has she been gone? It seems she’s been swinging from lifeline to lifeline well before we even meet her in the opening frames as she forlornly prepares a bath for her decrepit mother.
If one gets a sense of being consumed by the film’s crushing tone and impeccable sense of ambience, Dosunmu and Picoult deliver a dynamite third act climax. A resting shot on Pfeiffer’s face (a bookend reflection of an earlier shot in a mirror, with different lighting and a different expression) is profoundly moving, and is concomitantly comparable to a similar use of the performer’s face in Stephen Frears’ 2009 Cheri, a close-up of a woman simultaneously existing (and perhaps with relief) fading.
Reviewed on January 24th at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival – Premieres Program. 98 Min.

By Nicholas Bell | IONCINEMA.COM

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