Where Is Kyra?


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Michelle Pfeiffer in Where Is Kyra? - pushed to the brink after losing her job, a woman struggles to survive. As the months pass and her troubles deepen, she embarks on a perilous and mysterious journey that threatens to usurp her life.
"The colours, like that coat, only serve to show Kyra in even paler relief, her invisibility coming to offer a welcoming cloak as she hatches a plan to avoid destitution." | Photo: Bradford Young

It's interesting to talk about Where Is Kyra? in the light of the recent debate regarding the optimum 'size' a film should be watched at, sparked by Dunkirk. While I would argue that good cinema almost always overcomes the limitations of smaller screens - still a fact of life for many living in rural areas, for example - but there is no doubt that some gain an extra benefit from being seen on as large a screen as possible, with movies such as Blade Runner springing to mind. Often independent films, with their preponderance of 'smaller' more domestic settings and character studies, are viewed as those that lose the least on transferal to a smaller screen. Which brings me back to Andrew Dosunmu's Where Is Kyra? - a character study that although concerned with a domestic story and mostly shot within confined settings, will be best enjoyed on the biggest screen you can get to see it on.

This is not just because this is, literally, a dark film, with Kyra most frequently glimpsed in shadow or in the dreich half-light of rainy New York, but also because Dosunmu - who has a long career as a photographer - chooses his framing shots with extreme care. It's a skill in evidence from the start of the film, when he uses a mirror to simultaneously reveal what is happening in two different rooms of an apartment. In one, Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer) is pouring a bath for her ageing and infirm mum Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd), whom we can see in the other. It immediately absorbs us in the day-to-day lives of these women and also intimates that they have come, in some ways, to function as two halves of a whole.

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Kyra is down on her luck, having left a job and a marriage behind her, pouring all her energy into looking after her mum and relying on Ruth's pension to get by, the pair of them leaving behind the comforting whisper of Ruth's oxygen mask in her apartment to haltingly make their way to the local bank, accompanied by the click of Ruth's walking stick. It may not be idyllic, but it's something, until the day Ruth dies.

Kyra, in a sense, watches her mum vanish, knowing full well that despite the bright yellow coat she often wears, she too has begun to fade in the attention of the world around her. Dosunmu and cinematographer Bradford Young are ruthless with the camera; although we often only glimpse Kyra, this is a raw and gutsy performance by Pfeiffer - who has been away too long from our screens - with every wrinkle accentuated by the shadows. There is a steel to her desperation but also the weariness of worry and fear of loneliness. The colours, like that coat, only serve to show Kyra in even paler relief, her invisibility coming to offer a welcoming cloak as she hatches a plan to avoid destitution.

Dosunmu keeps the atmosphere oppressive, the jazzy, often discordant score, from Philip Miller, adding to the sense of pain and constant near-panic that is experienced by many struggling with debt. Hopefulness - or at the very least lukewarm comfort - is offered by Doug (Kiefer Sutherland, in a much more blue collar role than we're used to, but excellent as ever). He's a middle-aged guy in her apartment block, who is holding down multiple jobs to keep his head above water and who is probably the only person in the film who truly 'sees' the other, carefree Kyra, beneath the weight of what she has become.

This is life on a knife-edge and it cuts accordingly.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2017
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Where Is Kyra? packshot
A woman struggles to get by after the death of her mum.

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