24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Complicated And Ambitious: An Urban Indie Bolstered By A Complex And Rewarding Mother/Daughter Dynamic,
This review is from: Money Matters (DVD)
Despite its obvious budgetary constraints, writer/director Ryan Richmond serves up a surprisingly complex and ambitious narrative in "Money Matters." Knowing nothing at all about the film, I went into the experience a complete blank with little expectation. And while the movie is far from perfect, it has a reach, intimacy, and sophistication that made me want to overlook any apparent shortcomings. In a story that has elements of coming-of-age drama, family dysfunction, cautionary tale, and redemptive morality play--this little ninety minute presentation attempts more than you might anticipate. In fact, there is enough significant content to fuel several different projects. Sometimes the film pushes a bit too hard (I probably could have lived without the dramatic illness that takes over the film's finale), but I will never fault a filmmaker that has too many ideas and ambitions in this world of empty-headed movie making by committee.
At the heart of the picture is a strong and complicated mother/daughter dynamic. Aunjanue Ellis (getting a chance to shine) plays the mother, a troubled soul dealing with abusive relationships and a sordid past that was populated with drug use and prostitution. Still fighting every day, she has been committed to giving her daughter (Terri Abney) a better opportunity than she had. Abney plays Monique "Money" Matters and it is one of the more complex portraits of adolescence that you're likely to see. Introspective and socially awkward, Abney has a defiant but loving relationship with her mother (who has turned to a religious mania in the search for strength). But her primary journey is one of self-discovery, just who is she and where does she fit in? As Abney starts to be pushed by teachers and a new bond with a local girl, her independence and confidence start to shine. But as unsavory elements that haunt the two women's past start to surface, Abney must confront some unpleasant truths. Can these realizations set her free or might they destroy her?
Although filled with great ideas, the dialogue (as I mentioned) can sometimes feel a bit forced or stilted. Ultimately, though, there is no denying the power and emotion behind the piece. Ellis has a meaty role and she really attacks the disparate emotions behind it. Abney is allowed a quieter, more subtle approach. As her strength emerges gradually, you're invested in her journey. This mother/daughter bond is one of the primary reasons to watch "Money Matters." Ryan Richmond seems to have a great instinct and if this showcase is any indication, I expect to see more of this talented filmmaker. A strong contemporary urban drama, I hope this little film can find a wide audience on DVD. This is for viewers looking for complicated and rewarding storytelling outside of traditional mainstream cinema. KGHarris, 11/11.