×

Film Review: ‘Daisy Winters’

A death-obsessed preteen confronts her mom's cancer in the clumsy, but endearing melodrama from the late writer-director Beth LaMure.

Director:
Beth LaMure
With:
Sterling Jerins, Carrie Preston, Iwan Rheon, Brooke Shields
Release Date:
Dec 1, 2017

Rated PG-13  1 hour 31 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3702088/

Four months after writer-director Beth LaMure wrapped production on her first movie, “Daisy Winters,” she took her own life. Her spirit is palpable in the film she’d just finished editing, a small, but clearly heartfelt story about an 11-year-old named Daisy (Sterling Jerins) who is obsessed with death — and with good reason. Her single mother Sandy (Brooke Shields) has been battling cancer for five years, and if mom loses the fight, orphaned Daisy will be forced to live with Aunt Margaret (Carrie Preston), a kid-spanking snob eager to instill discipline in the morbid child. What happens next is at once improbable and emotionally sincere, a Hallmark card with warped edges, and a strong central performance by Jerins (“Paterson,” “The Conjuring”), who’s a young actress to watch.

Five minutes into the film, it’s clear that Daisy is an unusually brutal girl. She’s at the dinner table when her mother’s best friend Suzy (Kathy Takada) announces that she’s fallen in love with a new girlfriend. In response, Daisy hastily shovels in her spaghetti so she can read Suzy an after-dinner poem she’s written called “Pills.” It’s about Suzy’s last breakup and suicide attempt, and Jerins delivers the lines with the stern judgment of the immature. The subtext stings: Don’t get that weak again.

Everything about Daisy is dramatic, including the giant graphics on her T-shirts: a huge heart, a big flower, a scuffed-up smiley face, a flock of bats. At school, she writes more poems with titles like “Fear” in her fiddly cursive while her classmates scratch out trifles about cats. When someone tells her a sad story about their childhood, she laughs. One day, while walking to class with her best friend Jackson (Nick Gore), she wagers that their next-door neighbor is dead. This is the kind of movie where she’s right.

Can you blame Aunt Margaret for attempting to confiscate Daisy’s DVD of “Harold and Maude”? The script does: It shuns all forms of emotional repression. Instead, LaMure lavishes attention on Daisy and Sandy’s loving bond. They fight, and more than once, Shields, soft-voiced and fretful, stares at the girl like she hatched from an egg. More often, however, LaMure delights in shooting them circled up together on a chair like twins with their matching long brown hair and thick eyebrows.

Daisy Winters whisks through montages of bliss: the pair making cookies, unwrapping presents, clinking glasses at a restaurant on New Year’s Eve. But Daisy’s overheard enough conversations to know the good times might end. So she’s made a couple contingency lists. One of them starts with “Rope.” Oh, and there’s also a blow-up doll.

This sounds like the set-up to a dark comedy — the “Home Alone” of terminal illness, perhaps — but LaMure is after something more tender than that, a hard-luck coming of age story to pair with the gentle folk music on the soundtrack. Shawn Maurer’s cinematography is warm and bright, switching to handheld camerawork mainly when Daisy starts to panic. There’s a stretch of the film that nearly plays like a British parlor farce where the front door never stops knocking.

Right when things get weird, “Daisy Winters” gets unexpectedly inert, as though it has to keep its quirks in balance. A hacker recluse named Doug (Iwan Rheon) takes on a larger role in the plot, and behaves in ways that don’t quite compute, even after he explains his odd backstory. For a sanity check, the film occasionally cuts to Jackson’s mother Annabel (Poorna Jagannathan), one of the only adults in the film who cares about curfews.

Yet even in its strangest moments, there’s something refreshing in LaMure’s insistence that human behavior doesn’t fit in tidy boxes, and that kids are stronger than adults suspect. LaMure has an intriguing voice. It’s a shame we won’t get to hear more from her.

Film Review: 'Daisy Winters'

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, Nov. 21, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 91 MIN.

Production: Director, writer: Beth LaMure. Camera (color): Shawn Maurer. Editor: Cari Coughlin. Music: Paul Grabowsky.

Crew: A Hannover House release, presented with Daisy Force Pictures, Me Jane Prods. Producers: Beth LaMure, Jane Badler, Deborah Moore, Sean E. DeMott. Executive producers: Sean Lydiard, Christopher Bowen. Co-producers: Allison Jones, Marné Jones-Boulware, Alexandra E. Ryan.

With: Sterling Jerins, Carrie Preston, Iwan Rheon, Brooke Shields, Suzy Nakamura, Poorna Jagannathan, Nick Gore, Kyle Red Silverstein, Paul Blackthorne.

More Film

  • Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as

    Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as CEO of VFX Firm Foundry

    Jody Madden has been upped to CEO at U.K.-based VFX outfit Foundry. She steps up having been chief product officer and replaces Craig Rodgerson, who joined the company in late 2017. Foundry was bought by U.S. tech firm Roper Technologies earlier this year in a £410 million ($509 million) deal. The London-based business provides software [...]

  • The Lion King

    ‘The Lion King’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Lion King.” Ads placed for the remake had an estimated media value of $5.64 million through Sunday for 1,290 national ad airings on [...]

  • Beyonce poses for photographers upon arrival

    Beyoncé Releases Music Video for 'Spirit,' Her 'Lion King' Soundtrack Contribution

    Beyoncé fans are stampeding across the web veldt to get a look at her just-released music video for “Spirit,” the original song she co-wrote and sang for the “Lion King” soundtrack. The track is also included on the companion album she executive-produced and will release Friday, “The Gift.” Clips from the computer-animated film are interspersed [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez Takes Down Wall Street Crooks in New Trailer for 'Hustlers'

    According to Jennifer Lopez, basic pole dancing movements all revolve around a few foot positions. But as she tells her stripper student Constance Wu, it’s not just about the dancing. In the new trailer for “Hustlers,” Lopez and Wu swindle a number of high profile Wall Street clients in an effort to bring their white [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Leaders Warn Members About Contact With Fired Agents

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America are warning members about being contacted by their former agents — asserting that such efforts are an attempt to undermine the WGA and its members. The missive, sent Tuesday from the WGA negotiating committee, came with the guild in a bitter three-month standoff with talent agents that appears [...]

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content