Elena Undone full movie review - A romance film that appeals to everyone, including straight men!
OK, put away your presumptions and your prejudices about what a "lesbian" movie is. If you skip this movie because "it's about lesbians," or gays, or the mysterious "other," then you're missing out on one of the best romantic films I've ever seen.
First, I'm a happily married straight guy, 45 years old. Now having dispensed with that, on to the review!
As another reviewer has already noted, this is a romance film. It happens to be a romance film with two women as the lead actors. Sure, you can call it a lesbian film, if you wish to force it into some niche. You can note that the director and producer, both women, are partners, and therefore let that make a choice for you about the movie. I recommend, however, that you watch the film, and let it stand on its own merits. You won't be disappointed.
While some say that this film appears to be somewhat formulaic (girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl gets girl back in the end,) movies use formulas because 1) they work, and 2) they are true representations of how life happens. What separates this movie from other romance movies isn't that the main characters are women, but the visceral, raw, and quite real emotions captured by the camera and shown to us on film. I was bowled away by the acting, amazed by the cinematography, and stunned by the chemistry. Oh yes, there's chemistry! I'm making a distinction between the acting and the chemistry because I would like to speak to the acting in general, and the chemistry in particular. Am I exaggerating when I write "bowled away", "amazed", and "stunned?" OK, maybe a little bit. Obviously, I'm biased- I really like this movie! But allow me to explain.
The acting in "Elena Undone" is wonderful. And I don't mean wonderful for an indie film. I mean truly wonderful. The phrase "suspension of disbelief" gets bandied about quite a bit in film reviews, and I don't want to, again, exaggerate, but I really felt like I was there when watching this movie. There were so many scenes where I was no longer sitting in my living room, but I was "there", at the park, or in Peyton's living room, or in her (their) bedroom... I felt like I was disembodied, hovering at the periphery of the scene, really watching events unfold in real-time! Not just the main characters Elena (Nacar Zadegan) and Peyton (Traci Dinwiddie), but all the actors performed wonderfully.
The cinematography was also excellent. There are two main themes in the cinematography that I would like to speak to. One is the "style" of the movie, and the other, from a comparative point of view, is the role that the park plays in the movie. I can point to the "narration style" used where one of the actors, Tyler, talks to the camera in the guise of the cinematographer-type role that he plays in the movie. Similar to other movies that have used this device (Kenneth Branagh's "Othello" comes immediately to mind), it helps steady the movie and keeps things moving along. The park is another part of the cinematography that plays an important role in the movie. The park becomes almost like another part of the cast, present at many important points in the movie. It's there when Elena and Peyton first see each other, although they don't meet then. It's there when "girl loses girl," and also there when at the very end and the credits begin to roll, they are at their happiest. I bring these points up not because they are especially important, or especially poignant, but to demonstrate to you, the reader of this review, that particular care was spent in the cinematography of this movie. Please be assured, that if the cast and crew cared about these things, they certainly cared about all other aspects of this movie that make it so great.
Lastly, the chemistry. This movie, were it not for the chemistry between Nacar Zadegan, and Traci Dinwiddie, would be an above average romance movie. With it, it explodes on the screen! From their first glance that shows interest, to their open conversations, to the scene where there is that first spark that ignites the tinder, to the scene where the tinder begins to blaze a little more, to that scene... that scene where the flame is no longer small, but all-consuming, engulfing them... I don't even know if I can properly even describe it to you, to give it its due. You just are going to have to take my word for it, when you see this scene, you will be so affected, as I was, it's so amazingly beautiful and raw- the acknowledgment of Elena's feelings, her forthrightness, yet tempered with her knowledge that she may be changing things irrevocably, but with her stubborn, almost petulant need to charge forward into the abyss... And by the way, it's not a sex scene that I'm writing about (while there is sex in the movie, it's thoughtfully and provocatively muted, sensual, loving, while still being erotic and sexy!) Anyway, I'm probably letting my feelings thinking about this scene get away with me, but once again, please let me say to you, you deserve to see this scene, and by extension, the whole movie!
To summarize, and to close this somewhat lengthy and totally biased review, you need to see this movie. Yes you, straight man, as well as you, lesbian lady, and you too, curious lady. And hey, you too, straight woman with a boyfriend. All of you can put aside whatever baggage you're bringing to the table and watch this movie. If you aren't affected by this romance, this love story, this amazing retelling of how two people can meet, and fall in love, and run into problems, and become redeemed because of their unassailable love for each other, then you must be dead inside.