Where is Kyra?
Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland, Suzanne Shepherd
Director Andrew Dosunmu’s decision to shoot Where is Kyra entirely in natural light greatly hinders what could have been a comeback performance for Michelle Pfeiffer. His script puts Pfeiffer in a financial crisis that will have the audience asking what they might do if it were them. The story has an interesting premise and peaks curiosity; however, the delivery and the artistic choice of presentation here undermines the storytelling. Pfeiffer has struggled to remain relevant over the past decade, showing up last year in Aronofsky’s frustrating mother! and Murder on the Orient Express. Where is Kyra marks the Oscar nominee’s first true leading role in almost a decade, and the director chose to keep her mostly in silhouette for the entire film!
It’s been two years since Kyra (Pfeiffer) held a steady job. She balances her days taking care of her terminally ill mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd) and submitting resumes for clerical or waitress jobs. “I’m no spring chicken,” she admits in despair. When Ruth passes away, Kyra’s financial burden quickly escalates. Her mother’s pension checks continue to arrive, though due to an error on the death certificate, tempts the desperate Kyra toward a devious idea. Between her struggles to survive and her search for a job, Kyra meets Doug (Sutherland). He’s a hard-working guy, balancing multiple jobs and trying to stay out of the trouble that landed him where he is now. He offers help to Kyra, support that would eventually lead to romance.
The natural lighting issue might cause some to request a refund from the theater, but don’t be alarmed, this is intentional.
The natural lighting issue might cause some to request a refund from the theater, but don’t be alarmed, this is intentional. Whether Dosunmu was making a cinematic statement or simply trying to keep this budget as low as possible, the lighting, or lack there of, nearly ruins this film. In one scene Kyra has a near complete breakdown, the turning point of the film, was shot from across the room with Pfeiffer’s back to the camera, in almost total darkness. Outdoor scenes are an exception to my complaint about the lighting; however, sticking with the theme, Dosunmu chose some of the bleakest and greyest weather to shoot in.
What does work in this film is the audiences disbelief and shock at Kyra’s continual bad decision making. Like watching a slow-motion train crash, we can’t turn away until the inevitable occurs. Where is Kyra asks a lot of questions like, what is an uneducated 60-year-old living in NYC supposed to do without a job? If you end up watching this at home, you are likely to be tempted to shout a few suggestions at the screen during this brisk 90-minute feature.
The dependence on natural lighting reduces Pfeiffer’s performance to a silhouetted shadow.