August 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
Released: 2013; Written by: Nathalie Antonia and Dixie Perkinson; Directed by: David Crabtree; With: Nathalie Antonia, Dixie Perkinson, Jim Dowd, K.C. Sterling, Jessica Borden, Tara Redfield, Steve Fite, Shawnda Thomas, Vijaya Kumari, and Chad Strawn.
Contrary to what you may think, Gwyndor is not a magical, mystical character. There are no wands or dragons or castles in this movie. Gwyndor is, in fact, Ellie’s (Nathalie Antonia) drunk, estranged father who shows up on her doorstep for her birthday (and for her birthday party, which is occurring just as he appears). Thus begins the several hundred moments of discomfort through which Ellie must muddle in order to come to a final conclusion regarding her relationship with her dad.
Over the course of the movie, we learn that Gwyndor is crass, charming, brutish, bumbling, and, for better or for worse, Ellie’s relation. Ellie recounts his past hurtful words and deeds; he gives heartfelt speeches about the brevity of life. Ellie invites Gwyndor to stay; he delights and then offends her friends. She gives him water; he is a sot. The real beauty of Gwyndor is voyeuristic, as it lies in watching him self-destruct with an audience.
The cast is a true ensemble, both in terms of performance and in terms of their narrative purpose. The guests at Ellie’s party are there to characterize her actual family, the one she’s counted on for everything over the course of her adult life. They are a colorful (“vibrant”) and varied group whose talents surface as Ellie goes round after round with Gwyndor.
The movie is a slice of real life. It’s not terribly melodramatic or sensational. It’s simply about an uncultivated relationship, which means it’s terribly realistic and quietly moving. Even its humorous moments happen within the scope of the story. They are neither obviously scripted, nor scripted obviously.
My favorite moment is when Gwyndor lights up his first cigarette in Ellie’s house. She quietly indicates to him that, “We don’t do smoking inside.” He responds with an incredulous “Really?” just before pulling two more lengthy drags from the cigarette and putting it out in a full bowl of popcorn. Ellie is visibly upset by this as it’s a simple, lovely moment representative of all of Gwyndor’s acts in life. He does something uncouth, he’s asked to cease, and he does, but only after a few extra pulls for good measure.
— Leah Gehlsen Morlan