Director/writer Claude D’Anna’s “Daisy and Mona” is a convincingly hard-edged but appealingly sentimental drama with offshore potential and crossover appeal. Pic was notably well received by audience at Florida’s recent Sarasota French Film Festival. With proper handling, it could generate respectable numbers in urban markets.
Marina Golovine (the skeptical daughter in Agnieszka Holland’s “Olivier, Olivier”) plays Daisy, a street-smart Generation X-er with a spiky hairdo and a prickly attitude. She still bears the emotional scars of an abusive childhood, and conducts herself with equal measures of devil-may-care bravado and self-destructive impetuousness. Only when she’s forced to accept responsibility for her long-neglected daughter does she begin to find some purpose for her life.
The mother-and-child reunion does not begin very promisingly. Seven-year-old Mona (talented newcomer Dyna Gauzy) has been raised by her father, who got Daisy pregnant when she was still a child herself. But when the father is sent to prison, and his girlfriend rejects Mona, Daisy must claim the child. Neither Daisy nor Mona is particularly happy about this.
An uncomfortable situation gets even worse when Sami (Lilah Dadi), Daisy’s small-time-crook lover, is arrested for shooting a racist barroom brawler. Daisy and Mona take flight, relying on scams and petty larcenies for traveling money.
While on the road, they slowly break through their industrial-strength emotional defenses and reach out to each other. But they’re never far from danger. Things come to a head when Daisy discovers that her new employer has tricked her into delivering child-porn videos.
D’Anna does a fine job of avoiding the off-puttingly lurid while still maintaining a gritty realism. The film is rich in vivid and persuasive details, particularly as it depicts the squalor of the lower depths to which Daisy and Mona sink. But pic is neither exploitative nor sensational.
The lead performers bring out the best in each other. Golovine is excellent as the wounded young woman whose dreams are too troubling to allow her much sleep. And Gauzy is every bit as compelling when it comes to balancing rude feistiness with emotional vulnerability.
There is a bit too much ersatz “poetry” in the dialogue of the opening scenes , and the upbeat ending goes on too long by half. Otherwise, “Daisy and Mona” is an accomplished and affecting piece of work. Tech values are fine.