Film, 2010, 3 stars
Written and Directed: Nicole Conn
Oh what a merry dance Nicole Conn is taking us on here with Elena Undone. Or maybe we should say merry roller coaster. Ups and downs, highs and lows. Usually it’s pretty easy to spot a bad movie versus a good one, there are a few definitive calling cards. Bad music? Check. Overwrought dialogue? Check. A distracting film within a film? Check. Cliched love letters? Check. Oh boy.
However, Conn won’t let this one go without a fight. So there are also a whole bunch of up sides. Excellent casting choices? Check. Romantic chemistry? Check. Sexy love scenes? In spades. Good mother/son drama? Check. And in the end – the biggest yardstick of all – do we give a crap? Most of the time, yeah.
I got caught up in the story, though not without my share of groaning at the bad dialogue. For instance, if you’re going to have a "read aloud" love letter sequence, don’t try disguise the tackiness of it by having her do it while wearing a swimsuit by a pool, and don’t have the character writing the bad love letters supposedly be a writer by profession!
Elena Undone ... well...undoes itself through pure melodrama. Elena (Necar Zadegan) is a preacher’s wife in a small town who can’t figure out why she’s unhappy. Peyton (Traci Dinwiddie) is an unlucky in love lesbian, distraught over the recent death of her mother. The two meet by chance (but, according to the film, there are no accidents, only fate), and for Peyton the attraction is instant.
Elena takes a bit more time to come around, but her process of doing that is where the film’s dramatic tension lies. The sexual tension builds, and builds, and builds, until it all comes tumbling out in what was a freaking glorious first kiss sequence actually. However, once the passion subsides, where does that leave Elena?
Elena has a 15 year old son, Nash, who finds out about her affair. He’s more upset with the betrayal than the lesbianism, which is a plot point to be applauded. Little by little things unravel in Elena’s life, and she’s forced to make some hard choices. These choices are the real, distraught choices that women all over the world have had to make who come out later in life with children in the picture. I'm glad that the movie does not present this as an easy, or fast, process.
In terms of the actors, the supporting cast does OK with the material they have, but none are better than Connor Kramme as the young Nash. He’s freespirited but emotional and easily shaken. In the end however, he understands love probably more than the supposedly "grown-up" adults around him.
The film is apparently based in part on Nicole Conn's own life. I hate to say it, but it really isn't a great viewing experience. In the end what we have here is a wildly uneven, infuriatingly distracting, fragmented story about a woman who deserves to be cared about, and a story that has an important message hidden in there somewhere about recognising who you are and not sleepwalking through your life.
Remove the melodrama, the unnecessary film within a film, the “I just want a baby” stuff, and the cartoon-like representation of the religious beliefs that good people all over the world struggle with (there's just no excuse for that crap any more). Focus on the simple story of a woman torn between love and family duty. If you did that, you might have yourself a decent film here. I will admit that at least half a star of my rating here is based on the love scenes, simply because they were beautiful, and the actresses deserve absolute kudos for putting themselves out there, and showing such commitment in the service of this story.