Review by Sean Boelman
Kelly Walker’s directorial debut My Fiona is a movie that is very difficult to watch, sometimes for the right reasons but occasionally for the wrong ones. Wavering between painfully personal and conventionally melodramatic, this is yet another example of an indie film with its heart in the right place, but not necessarily the means to pull it off.
The movie tells the story of a woman who forms an unexpected connection with her best friend’s wife after her best friend unexpectedly commits suicide. The thing that Walker settles on most is settling on a tone. There are some very heavy, meditative moments, but others resemble a warmer romance. Perhaps there is something here about how grief manifests in different ways, but it isn’t consistent enough to work.
There is a mental health angle to be taken to this film, but unfortunately, this is largely ignored. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t linger on the suicide aspect, even making a point of saying that it is futile to attempt to justify things that happened in the past. However, the film really only explores their loved ones’ mental health through exposition and affirmations that they need to talk to someone.
Below all of the fluff, there is a timely message that people need to find help when they are in need. But Walker seems more interested in exploring the toxic behavior that the characters begin to exhibit when they are acting out on their unrestrained emotions. This definitely has an element of realism to it, even if the sappy romance threatens to undermine its authenticity.
One of the biggest sources of unused potential in the movie is the young son of the character who committed suicide. For much of the first half of the film, he rightfully serves as the force pushing much of the conflict forward, only for the second act to shift the characters towards becoming more self-centered.
The acting is definitely one of the strong suits in the movie, with strong leading turns from Jeanette Maus and Corbin Reid. Maus, in particular, is very tender in her role, selling the emotion in the film even when it becomes a bit more artificial in the final third. In the supporting cast, Ryan W. Garcia and April Lang are both good, although this is mostly a showcase for Maus and Reid.
Walker also brings a subtly beautiful hand to directing the movie. The opening scene is not the best-executed, but that is a tricky thing to pull off in a way that balances shocking and heartbreaking, especially with an indie budget. Otherwise, the film is shot in a way that is calm and aesthetically-pleasing.
My Fiona means well, and it’s surprisingly well-made for an independent feature, but the script leans too heavily into its melodrama to be as moving as it hopes to be. It’s a solid attempt at juggling these weighty themes, and it sometimes succeeds.
My Fiona is now streaming online as a part of the 2021 Florida Film Festival, which runs April 8-22 in Orlando, FL.