Greetings again from the darkness. A director’s first feature film is often the most personal of their career, which always adds an element of interest. Leah Yananton writes, directs, produces and acts in this story that focuses on the self-discovery of a young woman who passes (loosely) through Dante’s nine circles of Hell on her way to becoming a better person … or at least one quite apologetic for her previous self.
Most movies have a protagonist that we can root for, or at least relate to. Sophie (newcomer Christine Ryndak) is a poet-wannabe in her junior year of college. She is also whiny, needy, self-centered, and altogether unlikeable (to this viewer). Her feel for literature and poetry catches the attention of a married professor (Frederic Lehne), and we know immediately that this will get messy. Sophie inserts herself into the home life of Professor Slateman and Jacqueline (Mira Furlan), and her immaturity causes her to miss out on a real opportunity.
Instead of true relationships, Sophie pursues the professor while leading on Jimmy (Vincent Piazza, “Boardwalk Empire”), a fellow student who really likes her. She also uses and abuses her best friend Kiera (played by director Yananton), who is equally misguided, but much more self-aware. Equally frustrating is Sophie’s treatment of Jacqueline, who initially takes a legitimate interest in Sophie’s talent. Jacqueline is far and away the most intriguing character here, and a movie centered on her would have been significantly more interesting.
Dante’s “Inferno” detailed the path to rejection of sin, and we follow Sophie through each circle … some are a bit of a stretch, but the effort is commendable. Her choices along the way can sometimes be chalked up to being a 20 year old, while others are simply inexcusable for anyone with a conscience. By the time Ms. Yananton’s own version of “Ring of Fire” plays over the closing credits, we are relieved that our time with Sophie is over. Still, given that it’s her first feature, we see enough good that we look forward to this filmmaker’s next outing.
watch the trailer: