Friday, December 9, 2016

Gold Star (2016)

Gold Star (2016) film poster

A daughter. Her dad. The 65 years separating them. 

When the age divide between father, mother and child is significant it creates a unique family dynamic. It’s one that few will understand unless they’ve lived in it or have seen it first hand. I grew up in such a family. My father was 58 years old when I was born and my mother was 29. Having a much older father presented many issues that another family might not have to deal with. It would mean our time with my father would be limited and we’d soon shift from mother and daughter roles to caretakers.

We were also not his only family. That's not unusual in situations such as these. I have two half-sisters, both older than my mother and resentful of the love and attention I got from our father that was denied them when he left that family many years ago. The multiple family dynamic makes for complications when the time comes to make plans and divvy up the estate. If you don’t know what this family dynamic is like it’s hard to imagine the complexities. For someone like me it’s difficult to explain our family situation to others.

Victoria Negri in Gold Star (2016)
Victoria Negri in Gold Star (2016)

That’s why I’m very grateful for Gold Star (2016), a new film written, directed, produced and starring Victoria Negri. The story is based on her real life relationship with her much older father and what happens after he suffered a stroke. While Negri's story is deeply rooted in truth, and even filmed on location where real events happened, this is not a documentary. Victoria’s character Vicki is different from herself and according to a recent interview with the filmmaker reacts differently to her father’s situation than in real life. Playing Vicki’s father Carmine is classic Hollywood actor Robert Vaughn in his final on screen role. He passed away last month. Actress Catherine Curtin plays Deanne, Carmine’s wife and Vicki’s mother, and this triumvirate is fascinating to watch on screen.

Here is the official synopsis of the film from the website and the teaser trailer:

After dropping out of Juilliard, Vicki drifts aimlessly between her family’s house in Connecticut and an itinerant existence in New York. When her father suffers a debilitating stroke, she has to become his primary caretaker. Vicki resists connecting with him, and making peace with herself, but finds a way forward thanks to a new friend and a life-changing event.

If you think a film about a mother and daughter caring for an elderly father sounds like an emotional drain, fear not. Negri adeptly adds other story elements to create a thoughtful and well-rounded film. The focus is on her and what’s going on in her world and not strictly on her ailing father. There are moments of levity and romance in addition to the drama of the situation.

Robert Vaughn and Victoria Negri in Gold Star (2016)

My mother and I watched Gold Star together. We were both amazing how much the film mirrored our own story. My father’s illness and eventual death played out much differently than in the film but we found a lot of common ground in the essentials of the story. The age differences were almost the same (Vicki and her father are 65 years apart in age) and our struggles paralleled theirs. There was even a subplot involving the protagonist's half-sister which I couldn't help but relate to. We watched Gold Star a few days after Robert Vaughn had passed away. I always joked that Vaughn was my other father because of my mom’s lifelong crush on him. She’s been ready to propose marriage to Vaughn ever since she first caught glimpse of him during The Man from U.N.C.L.E days. I knew if she ever met him in person he’d be in danger of a few smooches or at least an attempt at them. Just prior to watching Gold Star, my mom and I watched a few episodes of El Agente de C.I.P.O.L, as the show was called in the Spanish-speaking world. Watching Vaughn at the tail ends of his career one can’t help but marvel at the passage of time and his evolution as an actor. He has a non-speaking role in Gold Star because his character’s stroke renders him speechless. Vaughn’s performance is nuanced and simply stunning. He’s left us all with one final role that is worthy of his enduring legend.

Robert Vaughn in Gold Star (2016)
Robert Vaughn in Gold Star (2016)

Many will come to see Gold Star specifically for Vaughn but I hope they enjoy Negri’s story too. It’s an important one to tell: the significance of family and the pain that comes at the end of life. This film is not driven by plot but rather by raw emotion and the awkward, sad, happy and confused moments all combine to create an experience for the viewer.

Gold Star (2016) is a profoundly moving film with an important story to tell. It is currently on the film festival circuit. You can visit the official site for details on future screenings and sign up for their newsletter. I’m looking forward to seeing this film get a wider release.

Thank you to Victoria Negri and Gold Star LLC for the opportunity to review this film!

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