Eve of Understanding premiered in Los Angeles at the 2006 Dances With Films Festival Competition Features, following the 2006 Toronto Female Eye Film Festival’s Jury Award for Best Feature. Movie review by Ester Molayeme
Manipulation and lies influenced Donna’s (Rebecca Lowman) life choices as well as her relationships with others, living her with unexplained anger and unanswered questions. Upon the recent death of her mother, Donna’s sister, Lisa (Jennifer Harlow), inherits everything of value, while Donna is assigned the task of delivering final mementos to significant people in her mother’s past, a road trip spanning from Texas to Arizona. Complying with her mother’s final wish opens Donna’s old wounds and, at the same time, uncovers family secrets.
Rebecca, who we have recently seen on stage in iWitness at the Mark Taper Forum, as well as in several features and television work, is exceptional in her challenging performance of Donna, displaying an array of emotions.
“I identify with her pain, her fury at deception, even the internalization of that fury” as well as “with her dry sense of humor, her hopeful cynicism, her smoke screens” says Rebecca, “If we know” and “if we admit the truth, in the sense of letting it in, we can begin to heal”.
Paralleling Donna’s painful journey are the symbolic images captured by Elizabeth Santoro’s outstanding photography.
Especially powerful is the cinematography relating the dramatic scene where Donna makes one of the deliveries to her father. With great anxiety and effort Donna desperately tries to open the door, as symbolically reaching for his heart.
Realizing the door was open, Donna enters the very dark living room finding her father willfully ignoring her and pretending to sleep. Desperately seeking her father acknowledgement by gesture or word, Donna foregoes her hopeful dreams, facing the harsh and unbearable reality that the fatherly love she was always deprived of, will never be.
More symbolism is portrayed in the long, narrow, and distant road Donna faces reflecting her long journey, but yet not knowing where it is leading her. Furthermore, the sunset in the background represents a phase in Donna’s life reaching an imminent end.
Prior to producing Eve of Understanding Jen Prince wrote and directed Winded, which gained distribution through the Mind lgnite Australian television series, she won a Judge’s Award at the Miami International Short Film Festival and was nominated for two awards at the MethodFest. Jen worked in television for the Emmy Awards, The Contender (ESPN), and The Amazing Race (CBS) before moving on to form Open Plan Films.
The film is powerfully speaking to the audiences by successfully “presenting Donna’s struggle in a realistic and honest way” explains Jen, where a true “look at anyone’s family blurs the lines between villain and victim, truth and lies, cause and effect. Donna comes to understand her mother, possibly even forgive her.”
“The film is hopeful” adds Jen “because Donna has a real chance at a whole life after the journey Eve sends her on”.
Eve of Understanding is the feature film directing debut of producer/writer/director Alyson Shelton, who served as an assistant to the president of Gracie films, and producing shows for Fine Living Network and Food Television.
Writing this remarkable script in only 5 days, Alyson tells a story she deeply cares about, reflecting on “hope, honesty, full disclosure and healing. Donna plows through life not really knowing the truth about herself and feeling like there is a piece missing…and there is.”
Many “people relate to the film” says Alyson, “because many of us would like to know the full story about our family and therefore ourselves.”
Donna’s mother could not love Donna in real life, however, in death, she gave Donna the greatest gift of all.