Formulaic and unfocused, “Dear Mr. Cash” is a tepid coming-of-age drama about a rural Tennessee girl’s devotion to Johnny Cash during a period of familial turmoil. Uneven performances and banal dialogue dilute the charm of local color, and an overall lack of easily sellable elements (excepting, perhaps, Cash tunes on the soundtrack) make pic a commercial non-starter.
Newcomer Anna Grace Stewart makes a bland impression as Heicke, a precocious 10-year-old who seeks refuge in daydreams and Cash tunes while Miranda (writer-director Wendy Cooper-Porcelli), her depressed mother, rests in bed. Laid low by the double-whammy of father’s death and husband’s desertion, Miranda is too bummed out to fully appreciate the romantic devotion of Johnston (Matthew Carlton), handyman and longtime friend, who’s given to epileptic seizures.
When Sirena (Mahlea Jones), Miranda’s lissome sister, returns home for visit, Heicke suspects her prodigal aunt secretly is a mermaid. No kidding. Attractively shot pic fails to establish a consistent point of view, and makes only a half-hearted attempt to define the precise time period of the narrative. Inexplicably, Heicke’s waterlogged dreams about her aunt gradually are shared by other characters.