Vanguard // Unrated // $29.99 // June 24, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted July 27, 2003
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Movie: Coming of age movies are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. You'd think that with the sheer numbers of such movies on the market, there'd be a whole lot of interesting stories to base the movies on. Reality, on the other hand, tells us that the suits who decide on what is "worthy" of being made or what changes need to be made to a script in order to get financing greatly limits the variety of what stories are made unless the low budget, independent movie route is taken. One such personal vision of personal change is Zoe.

The movie takes a look at a young teenager who hits the road with her two best friends after a problem at home. Her mother has personal issues and an abusive boyfriend but doesn't have the strength of character to deal with her problems and so Zoe (Vanessa Zima) goes off with her friends in search of her own roots, via New Mexico (although her friends want to go to California). Along the way, she comes into continual contact with a woman, Cecilia (Jenny Seagrove), from England who is making a quest of her own to New Mexico-she's bringing her mother's ashes to a little spot in order to fulfill a dying request. When the two meet, and then hook up in a fashion, the culture clash is only a small part of the outcome. Director/Writer Deborah Attoinese commented on the inside dvd cover that the movie was a labor of love that took her 7 years and I only wish there was an audio commentary to learn more about how much of this was her, even if altered a bit, versus how much was fiction.

The movie started out as almost a rip-off of Thelma and Louise with the three youngsters on the run but about half way through it became a lot more original, and personal, when the sidekicks went their separate ways, at least for a time. As Zoe searches for her past, being 1/8 Cherokee, in hopes of solving her present problems, and Cecilia finds that her own pat answers to life weren't without their own limitations, the two come to an understanding of sorts. The chemistry between Zima and Seagrove was evident as was their talent. The other characters weren't as fully developed and the acting not as engaging with the sole exception of Gordon Tootoosis's Native American guide.

In the end, we learn that change is inevitable and happy endings depend on your point of view. Nothing is quite as it seems and the movie makes no small point of suggesting that our spiritual side is important to listen to while keeping our physical aspects secure. Add in the theme that dreams and hopes should be pursued and you have the heart of Zoe.

My biggest complaint about the movie is that I think there were too many missed opportunities between Seagrove and Zima as well as with the story in general. You're left to interject many of the specific plot points on your own, which is a mixed blessing when you consider some of the story. The ending was a bit too pat as well with far too many unanswered questions about what happened, and where it'll all go from there.

So, in retrospect, I think my rating for this one is to Rent It first and if it strikes a chord, you might want to buy it. It has some meaningful messages but they are just too often trapped in the subplots for my tastes. As a side note, the soundtrack was very interesting for me with lots of decent tunes that I hadn't heard before. I haven't heard if Curb Records has a separate soundtrack but I'd be interested to get it.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio widescreen color and looked very clear most of the time. There were a few moments of too much grain and some of the sharpness came and went at times but for a low budget independent movie, it was generally solid. The fleshtones were accurate and there were very few artifacts that I noticed in my single viewing of the movie.

Sound: The sound was presented in 5.1 stereo English with some separation of the channels-even if not much. The vocals were clear and the music track was really good with a Western theme.

Extras: trailer to the movie only

Final Thoughts: It was an interesting movie to watch and I'm sure someone more in tune with the target audience will have more depth to add in terms of the key messages it shoots for. In all, I liked a lot about this one regardless of it's limitations. It's not a complex story unless you read a lot of yourself into it but there was some emotional depth for those who seek it.

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