by su-anne lieu for FILMbutton
Valerie Weiss’ film A Light Beneath Their Feet focuses on the relationships between a bipolar mother and her daughter. Taryn Manning plays the bipolar mother, Gloria, who keeps her daughter very close to help her cope with her illness. Madison Davenport plays the loving daughter ,Beth, struggling with a decision that will change her life. Beth is torn between going away to her dream college and start an independent life or stay close to home to continue to take care of her mother. As Gloria becomes more ill, Beth feels the pressure and weight of the obligations she has towards her mother.
The film is an emotional rollercoaster due primarily to the excellent performances from Manning and Davenport, respectively. Manning does an amazing job representing an individual with bipolar disorder and the everyday challenges they must face including the various emotions and mood swings that takes their toll on all concerned. The audience can truly feel Gloria’s love for her daughter yet sympathize with her as she tries to control her illness everyday. Manning’s performance is intense, heartfelt, and touching, Davenport does a terrific job in portraying Beth. She displays a number of emotions and feelings with just a look. The audience can feel the pain, misery, love, and excitement with every word and expression Davenport shows. With two amazing performances it really makes the audience feel the struggle of both characters and see the world not only from the one experiencing the illness but also from the caregiver’s perspective.
What surprised me was the use of certain shots to create an element of suspense or danger. Jeffrey Waldron’s use of low angles was a successful choice in portraying the feelings of panic, uncertainty, and/or fear. Furthermore, by placing the camera behind an object or through an opening, added a dramatic effect to scenes in which it was used. When the camera is hidden or behind an object in the foreground it adds depth and interest to these shots. There is a distinct use of the bokeh effect in scenes that wanted to highlight certain character’s emotions which was a nice touch but at times unnecessary.
There are two basic issues that I have with the film. Firstly, the character Daschulla and her story line seemed a little one dimensional with no real depth within the character so the desired effect of using her as a foil for Beth fell flat. It seems Weiss and Moira McMahon wanted to create a parallel between Daschulla and Beth which was a good idea ,in principle, but ultimately failed because they did not give the character’s of Daschulla and her father enough time to develop. Secondly, the development of the love story between Beth and Jeremy was a little awkward and did not seem to bloom naturally. We all know that relationships take many forms but why Beth continued to pursue this boy even when it was clear that he was seeing another girl seemed odd. Then it seemed he only decided to take interest in her once he found out about her mother’s illness and then suddenly they are in love.
In essence,other then the two above issues, I enjoyed the film and believe director Valerie Weiss did a great job representing mental disorders in truthful and honest manner. A Light Beneath Their Feet really puts into perspective the value and importance of family and therefore, I can understand why this film has received critical praise and won the Stubbornly Independent Award from the Tallgrass Film Festival, the Audience Favourite Award from the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Gold Award 2015 from US Cinema Indie.
You can catch a screening of A Light Beneath Their Feet focuses at the Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on November 14th, 2015 at 8:00 PM to see for yourself.