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Eve of Understanding

1 rating: 5.0
A movie directed by Alyson Shelton

Sometimes running away is the only way to make peace with your inner demons. That's exactly what Donna tries to do when her family becomes a little more than she can bear. But when she hits the road to trek across Texas and Arizona, will she find that … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Director: Alyson Shelton
Release Date: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Eve of Understanding

Eve of Understanding - 2006

  • Jun 21, 2011
Pros: spot on script and acting, visuals, music

Cons: none for me

The Bottom Line:
"There's a road a winding road that never ends
Full of curves lessons learned at every bend
Goin's rough unlike the straight and narrow"
~Tony Martin

Eve of Understanding was written, produced, & directed by first-timer Alyson Shelton.   She was joined in this effort by first-time producer Jen Price and Elizabeth Santoro as cinematographer who, until this project, had previously only served as assistant on a few short films.   The other members of the crew had little professional experience behind them either.  To top it all off, they made this film on a paltry $20,000 budget.   You are probably thinking, "Wow, this probably amounts to a huge stinko" but the film was nominated and won five awards from film festivals: two for best actress, two for best film, one for best music.  Did I mention Peter Senchuk, who composed the original music for the film, had only a few credits for short films in his past?

The film does carry an R rating.  I would assume this is for some brief sexual interludes, smoking, drinking while driving, maybe some language but I can't remember, and some heavy implied situations - what they normally refer to as thematic elements.

The story:
Maybe it is your own family, or that of someone you know.  Maybe you aren't familiar with the situation at all but the film deals with Donna, estranged from her father and on barely tolerable terms with her mother.    Eve, the mother, was suffering from cancer although she never told anyone and decided to take matters in her own hands along with a bottle of pills.   It is what she left behind that tells the story and unfolds her understanding.

The youngest daughter, Lisa, is left all her "worldly" goods but Donna is left with a makeup case full of seemly worthless treasures and a few letters.   She is also charged with delivering these treasures to various people, along with an accompanied note, and the dispersal of her final ashes at the end destination.

It is a road journey with a twist because it unfolds a delicate story of Eve's life and Donna's understanding of it that evaded her throughout her own life.

The gifts:
Simplistic in nature, each carries a story of its own -
1.  Travis - Donna's ex-boyfriend that took her to her prom.  His gift is the corsage he gave Donna, one that Eve has kept all these years. 

2.  Joe - Eve's ex-husband.  A drunken, slovenly person despised by his family.  His gift was a velvet canvas painting of Jesus that apparently he loved but Eve took from him when they parted.

3.  Vera - Eve's long, lost best friend.  Her gift was a letter and some photographs that brought her wonderful memories. 

4.  Ruth - Eve's sister, a religious zealot with a brood of children.  Her gift was a moth-eaten teddy bear that she cherished until she was 3 when Eve decided she was too old for it any longer.   As Donna is leaving, Ruth is the one that spills the beans about the sexual relationship between Vera and Eve ... who knew?

5.  Michael - Donna's brother.   His gift was his birth certificate which divulges drunken Joe was not his father.  Of course he already knew that because he had already gotten a copy years ago.   It is also implied that Michael and Donna might have a relationship that is more than platonic.

After leaving Michael, Donna makes a stop by her childhood friend, Cassie, to seek salvation and some sort of connection.  Cassie, a lesbian, hoots when she hears about the relationship between Vera & Eve and tries to help Donna come to terms with her own spiritual being.

6.  Russ - Eve's ex-son-in-law, previously married to Lisa until she became a religious fanatic.  His gift was their wedding album and a small handmade bowl.

7.  Hank - Eve's brother, deceased.   The gift Donna left at his grave was a letter which she was instructed to read.  In it she discovers that Eve had suffered from sexual abuse for some time by her brother.

8.  Mary - the final stop.  I won't tell you what her gift was, only that she and Donna went together to spread Eve's ashes as she requested.

The actors:
Rebecca Lowman absolutely shines as Donna.  There is a base humanity to her that makes her both victim and hero.   Every facet of her emotions is splayed out in front of us through the film from despair to joy, sometimes scary, sexy, wounded.   It was a pleasure to watch her go through her various stages of her persona and see her bare her emotional landscape.

She was joined by Jennifer Harlow as Lisa, who never stops praying for your soul; Kit Gwin as Ruth, frighteningly evangelical; Daniel Magill as Michael, her loving brother; Bellamy Young as Cassie who gives her love and support as well as forces her to make the tough decisions.

Mark Reeb as Travis left you a little wanting as well as Shaeri Richards as Mary who has the biggest secret but you feel almost assualted by her/it. 

DVD extras:
trailer; selected scenes; poster; feature: A Look Insidethat has some really interesting interviews with Alyson, Jen, and  Rebecca Lowman; feature: Behind the Scenes which tells of the struggles to obtain financing and the journey the entire case and crew went on to make this film. 

Overall impression:
It is everything that surrounds a dysfunctional family and is full of implied abuse, domestic violence, and even love.   Donna considers it her mother's final abuse, charging her with this journey.  This is never more apparent than when we she her, a chain-smoker, grinding out the cigarettes on the lid of the coffee can holding Eve's remains.

It is a film that may be uncomfortable for those that have suffered their own abuse, although nothing is really said or shown.  The small revealers, however, may make some visit their own abuse.    It is really a story about how we are never truly alone, their is almost always someone to help us through our emotional journey of life.   Basically that is what it breaks down to, an emotional journey of life for Donna and we all came along for the ride.

The camera work was wonderful with some outstanding shots of Sedona.   The light and dark images were clear with a depth of color that was respectable.   Sound transferred equally as well and the musical score was a delight playing in the background.

This is truly why I love independent films, and movies in general.   What a superb cast and script, really a pleasure to watch.



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