If you’re going on a road trip, you’re always in for a great time. Music blasting out of the speakers, you, your friends and family having amazing moments and just becoming one with the world for once. Not everyone is that lucky. Just ask Mandy, the lead character in the debut film from writer/director Richard Prendergast. Her immensely stirring and real-life story is being told in his intimate and heart-breaking “Sylvia”.
Mandy (Jolie Lennon), her two daughters Masie (Masie Prendergast) and Evie (Evie Prendergast) and mom Linda (Gaynor Fraser) are going on a road trip. All seems normal. The three women are out for an adventure. However, if you take a closer look, something might seem off. While Mandy is telling Evie off for spilling her drink, the truth comes out. The young mother needs to sell “Sylvia”, their car, to be able to take care of her family. Life isn’t easy for them but Mandy does everything she can to give her daughters the best life possible. Buying them a small treat, putting on a brave face for them and forgiving them. Sadly, selling the car isn’t the darkest moment in Mandy’s life. No, something more tragic happened to her…
We don’t want to give too much away and that’s why the story seems a little bit vague. However, “Sylvia” is a film you need to see! The fact that this movie is based on true events makes it even more touching.
Prendergast decided to change the original names of the characters. Sylvia is still the name of the car but every other character has been given another one. While Lennon (“The Girls Were Doing Nothing”, “The Academy”) is playing Mandy in this film, the mother who had to go through all this sadness is called Sabrina. Doesn’t matter what the name is, Lennon puts on an extremely emotional performance and takes on this role with a lot of dignity and respect for the story. Fraser, who makes her debut with this movie, is very compelling as Mandy’s compassionate and caring mother. Whether her character is called Linda (in this movie) or Wilma (in real life), she plays this role incredibly well. The two little actresses, Masie and Evie, are cute and captivating. They might not have a lot of lines but if they do, they deliver them with such innocence and charm. The admirable Benjamin Hartley (“Star Wars”, “Bringing Back Golden Eye”) brings even more sadness and sentiment to the screen as Brian (Kevin in real life), the new owner of Sylvia.
For the cinematography of this film, Prendergast worked with two very gifted and upcoming cinematographers called Rowan Biddiscombe and Tom Coe and together they created a stunning movie. The cinematography doesn’t only contribute to the bigger picture, the emotional vibe (sad, happy, confused, etc) but it also shows us the smaller details such as some smudges on the window, crumbs on the car seat and the broken features of the old car. The slow, relaxing and poignant score makes you drawn to the screen as well.
After been awarded numerous accolades such as ‘Best Film’ at The American Pavilion at Cannes, ‘Best Actress’ at the New Renaissance Film Festival, the ‘Jury Award for Best of Fest’ at the Cordillera International Film Festival and ‘Best Film’ at the Sydney Indy Film Festival, “Sylvia” is now being considered for an Oscar. We wouldn’t be surprised if the movie would take home that well deserved Academy Award. Not only because it’s an incredibly emotional and moving socially important film but also because it’s a stunning performed one.
Liselotte Vanophem, Film Reporter