Sundance 2014: “Dawn” – Review by Mark Krawczyk

The Sundance Film Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a showing of nearly 200  films. Today we take a look a one of the many short films playing at the festival this year.

DAWN

Dawn

Directed by: Rose McGowan
Written by: M.A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller
Cast: Tara Barr, Reiley McClendon, Hannah Marks, Michael Moskewicz, Julia Sanford, John Grady

Set in the early 60’s, Dawn is a story about a quiet teenage girl who dreams of escaping her sheltered life.  After a brief meeting with a boy working at a gas station, she begins to think her dreams have come true.  When she invites the boy and his friends over to her house, she discovers her crush may not be the answer to those dreams after all.

Rose McGowan’s (DEATHPROOF, SCREAM) directorial début is an excellently crafted tale that ensnares you almost from the first minute and holds you there until the credits roll.  You would be hard pressed to find any evidence that this was McGowan’s first time behind the camera.  The sets, hair, and makeup are so authentic that it feels like McGowan actually shot this in the 60’s. The film is further strengthened by the performance of Tara Barr (GOD BLESS AMERICA) as Dawn.

Tara Barr’s portrayal of a teenage girl with a new crush comes across with such genuine feeling that the audience immediately connects with her.  You do not see an actress playing Dawn, Tara makes you believe that she is Dawn.  This also helps the audience feel sympathy for her character as the story progresses.  There were only two things that I would have liked to see done differently in the film.

The first was the opening scene when we first see Dawn.  I do not want to give too much away but let’s just say it is one of those scenes where we get a brief glimpse of a moment later in the story, which means the majority of the film is spent leading us up to that known moment.  I think this gives a bit too much away about the ending of the film and I would rather not have seen it.  I will admit that it does help create an underlying tension throughout the film, but I think that tension would have been there even without that opening shot.  The other moment that stood out was in a scene where Dawn takes a swig from a flask.  It seems like it was supposed to be the character’s first time drinking alcohol, but she knocked it back without so much as a flinch.

Overall Dawn is an engrossing story that makes the audience feel like they are back in the Kennedy era, seeing a moment in time.   The combination of McGowan’s direction, Tara Barr’s performance and a talented supporting cast makes  Dawn a stand-out short film that will resonate with the viewer long after it is over. Dawn gets 5 out of 5 stubs.

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