LA Film Festival Movie Review: BEAUTY MARK

BEAUTY MARK claims to be based on true events, and while many other films make the claim as though an assurance of veracity is an assurance of quality, the statement here means something a little different. I'm doubtful it means the characters are based on actual people, or that the situations occurred in reality, rather denoting that similar stories happen all the time in our money-hungry society. 

Angie (Auden Thornton) is a young single mother, taking care of her son and deadbeat mother on a meager salary earned working at the local convenience store. When the power goes out in their home, the electrician discovers black mold and is forced to report the house. The authorities become involved and quickly condemn their home demanding Angie relocate her family for their own safety. 

Her only option is to find a new place for them to stay, which requires upfront money she doesn't have. Searching for a quick solution, she reaches back into her repressed memories of childhood abuse, and becomes determined to make the man who abused her pay for his crimes with as much money as possible. 

While it never really plumbs the depths of desperation that some films of this nature do, it's tempting to label BEAUTY MARK as "poverty porn" - wallowing in the mud of lower-class struggle like filthy swine with financial woes. But there's no such trip into exploitation here, rather aiming to tell a realistic story that will no doubt be close to home for a lot of people. 

I couldn't help being reminded of a similar film - TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (2014) starring Marion Cotillard - where a woman is forced to convince her co-workers to help save her job after they've been offered a tidy sum to accept her dismissal. Both films are a struggle against the clock and against a broken system that tears people apart. Both also show the lengths a parent must go to in order to provide for their children. 

Although Auden Thornton may not give quite as powerful a performance as Cotillard, she's believable and empathetic as a woman who must dig up painful memories for financial gain. Jeff Kober, perhaps one of the creepiest looking actors ever - is effortlessly convincing as Bruce, the man who abused Angie as a child. The script calls for some intense moments which the cast handles admirably when they could have easily lapsed into melodrama. 

Director Harris Doran keeps the tone surprisingly upbeat for a film tackling such heavy themes. The story moves quickly, never sinking into outright depression like you may expect from the synopsis. The style never gets in the way of the characters, allowing them to take and hold center stage. 

My biggest problem with the film lies in the final moments where we are presented with a revelation that only makes sense if you caught a blink-and-miss-it moment earlier in the story. I'm usually pretty good about catching that sort of thing, but when the credits rolled I was left bewildered. I actually had to ask other folks what I'd missed - and when I found out, it made more sense, but I still think the filmmakers could have done a better job highlighting connections between certain characters. It would have given the ending a little more impact. Aside from that, BEAUTY MARK is a reasonably well-made, low-budget drama that unfortunately mirrors the struggles of many. It might not hit all the marks, but that doesn't prevent it from being at least worth a watch if these kinds of films are your thing.

NonSequitur