Blue Car (2002) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for sexual content and language
Running Time: 87 min.

Cast: Agnes Bruckner, David Strathairn, Margaret Colin, Regan Arnold, Frances Fisher, A.J. Buckley, Sarah Buehler, Dustin Sterling, Mike Ward 
Karen Moncrieff
Screenplay: Karen Moncrieff
Review published May 7, 2003

I know a woman who has an eight-year-old girl, who adores her greatly, spending as much time and energy as her schedule will permit with her.  Sometimes she looks at her daughter and in a moment of introspection will say, "It's a shame she has to grow up.  I want her to stay my little girl forever."

Blue Car is about that moment in every girl's life when she is not the little girl anymore, able to perceive the realities of the world without romanticism, full of adults who are far from perfect, and where childlike dreams of the ideal can no longer exist.  For Meg (Bruckner), she has had her share of hard times, abandoned by her father at an early age, but in her heart, she still holds hope for a time when her mother, father and sister will be together once again.  Her mother works all day, and goes to school all night, in an effort to try to make a better life for her children, but this leaves Meg alone to care for her emotionally disturbed younger sister.  With the encouragement of a caring teacher, she finds an outlet for her feelings through the writing of poetry, and his mentoring guides her to go deeper in her emotions.  She opens up to him in ways she never could with any other, and in the absence of parental guidance or friends, she wants to be closer to this man who is always so kind and understanding.

There's one particular scene that made Blue Car difficult for me to watch, and in some ways, difficult to recommend to anyone unprepared for it.  If you have seen it, or know enough about this film, you'll know what I'm referring to.  It's a scene that is not gratuitous, very honest, and true to the characters and its story, but its own effectiveness is what makes it so difficult.  Over the years, I've seen maimings, killings, and gore galore in many a film, and never batted an eye, but one scene of a young girl's innocent views of love and kindness taken away, and in its place, filling it with pain and isolation, and my eyes could only avert from the genuine truthfulness of the moment, not wanting to share in the pain. 

Such is the nature of first time writer-director Karen Moncrieff's quiet coming-of-age story, Blue Car, which, like the poems written by an introspective young girl, has an honest approach and heartfelt delivery that makes it compelling, even if it lacks the maturity to be truly profound.  If a poem can capture a moment, or a fleeting feeling in a life, so does this movie.  There is a beauty to the way this story is told that is admirable, a simplicity that is refreshing in this world of overcooked melodramatics. 

The main reason why Blue Car works as well as it does lies in the casting, with two remarkable performances by Bruckner and Strathairn.  Both are commanding in their own way, with Bruckner delivering complete believability in genuine emotion, while Strathairn emotes little outwardly, but whose motivations and feelings are easy to read through his eyes and mannerisms.  In some ways, I feel their performances are almost too good for the story around them, too complex for the rather simplistic story they are surrounded in.

In the end, a very poignant slice of life film that gives us just enough moments of moving drama and believable motivations to make a lasting impression.  Although really a film about children, this is an adult film with adult issues, although the lesson learned of being skeptical as to the motivations of strangers and friends should be valuable for teenagers who can handle the mature subject matter.  It's better to learn it from a movie than find out Meg's way.

Qwipster's rating: b>

2003 Vince Leo