WHERE IS KYRA? — Review by Diane Carson

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Where Is Kyra? is not a film that grabs headlines; it is one that lingers with a profound emotional, empathetic appeal. For Kyra is that rare woman in narratives: middle-aged, unemployed, down-on-her-luck, and becoming increasingly desperate. With credit cards canceled and homelessness looming, Kyra becomes resourceful by necessity, adopting her recently deceased mother’s identity in order to cash her checks. Continue reading…

There are no spoilers there because the drama comes from a phenomenal performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as Kyra with Kiefer Sutherland as her newly acquired lover Doug. With a dose of dramatic irony, we the audience know much more about Kyra than she reveals to Doug. He watches and suspects while Kyra confronts rejection in the job market and indifference from most of her fellow Brooklynites.

Nigerian-born director Andrew Dosunmu frames and scores Where Is Kyra? in unconventional ways. His expertise directing music videos for artists including Isaac Hayes, Common, Aaron Neville and Tracy Chapman transfers eloquently to this film’s music and sound. At several crucial junctures for Kyra, Philip Miller’s plaintive, dissonant sound dominates, advancing an effective, appropriately disturbing commentary on the action.

As arresting, Dosunmu’s compositions frequently isolate Kyra and Doug in long shots, communicating their loneliness, separation from a supportive community, and minimal agency in their lives. At more dramatic moments, close-ups capture a full range of Kyra’s reactions from rage to anguish, vulnerability to determination. Watching Michelle Pfeiffer’s enactment of this woman as a hyperaware and yet disempowered character urges me to more carefully observe this world of so many virtually invisible and needy individuals. And Kiefer Sutherland offers an impeccable counterpoint to the trajectory of Kyra’s troubles.

Equally notable, cinematographer Bradford Young’s dark, noir lighting complements the mood, while Oriana Soddu’s editing never rushes poignant, heart-breaking events. Every technical detail communicates the situation Kyra faces in her struggles with her own resiliency, or lack thereof, in the face of a cruel world. Co-author with Darci Picoult of the story, Dosunmu reminded me art film is in his please for humanity.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.