×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

Popular on Variety

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

  • Ad Astra Box Office

    Box Office Battle: 'Ad Astra' Takes on 'Rambo: Last Blood' and 'Downton Abbey'

    “Hustlers” and “Good Boys” proved that even in the age of Marvel dominance and remake mania, movies that don’t exist within an established franchise can still be box office draws. Can “Ad Astra” continue that trend? The space drama — starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray — arrives on the big screen this [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Accuser Lucia Evans Breaks

    Harvey Weinstein Accuser Lucia Evans Breaks Silence After D.A. Dropped Charge

    Lucia Evans gave a wrenching account on Tuesday of her efforts to hold Harvey Weinstein responsible for sexual assault, saying she felt betrayed after the Manhattan D.A.’s office dropped her allegations last year. Evans spoke to Variety after giving a speech at a conference on influencer fraud in Manhattan, making her first public comments on [...]

  • Ad Astra

    How 'Ad Astra' Production Crew Created Authentic Look for Brad Pitt Space Drama

    In “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt’s astronaut Roy McBride crosses the solar system to find and confront his long-lost father, requiring the movie crew to create an authentic-looking future that conveys the theme of traveling long distances to learn the lesson that it’s where you started from that has the most value. “Visually, the aim was [...]

  • Nahnatchka Khan'Always Be My Maybe' film

    'Fresh Off the Boat' Creator Nahnatchka Khan Signs First-Look Deal With Netflix

    Netflix has signed “Fresh Off the Boat” creator and executive producer Nahnatchka Khan to an exclusive multi-year first look deal for feature films. Khan made her feature film directorial debut with “Always Be My Maybe” starring Ali Wong and Randall Park. The romantic comedy premiered on Netflix in May and was seen by 32 million [...]

  • The Mover

    Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Costa Rica Announce Oscar Contenders

    Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro and Costa Rica are the latest countries to announce their entries for the newly rebranded International Feature Film award at the 92nd Academy Awards. All four countries are seeking their first Oscar nomination in what was formerly known as the foreign-language film category. Latvia has selected Holocaust drama “The Mover” (pictured) as [...]

  • The Sky Is Pink

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Sky is Pink'

    Shonali Bose’s much-laureled 2014 “Margarita with a Straw” was a film whose presentation of a cerebral palsy-afflicted heroine sidestepped all the usual hand-wringing inspirational clichés of disability portrayal, making her story all the more enlightening and affecting. It is particularly disappointing, then, that the director’s followup should approach another tale of genetic infirmity with all [...]

  • Jodie Turner-SmithVariety Studio Comic-Con, Day 1,

    'Queen and Slim' Star Jodie Turner-Smith Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' (EXCLUSIVE)

    After she plays the Bonnie to Daniel Kaluuya’s Clyde in Universal’s romantic thriller “Queen and Slim,” actress Jodie Turner-Smith will join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Turner-Smith will play Karen Greer in the movie. As recently announced, Jamie Bell will also co-star as Robert Ritter, the deputy director of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content