Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist star Jane Levy delivers a stupendous performance in the newest film from Angus MacLachlan, A Little Prayer.
MacLachlan is no stranger to the Sundance Film Festival. He started coming as a volunteer in the late 1980s. His last trip as a filmmaker was to showcase Amy Adams’ Oscar-nominated performance in 2005’s Junebug. We’ve already known that Jane Levy is a star from her comedy work in Suburgatory and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. What the actress does her is disappear into the role and show the range of her acting work. It’s one of the best performances that I watched during the festival. Levy holds her own against David Strathairn.
The film touches on a variety of subjects in the modern South, including a woman’s right to choose, veterans dealing with PTSD, and how far men should go when it comes to interference. But at the end of the day, it’s about Bill (David Strathairn) choosing to protect his daughter-in-law, Tammy (Jane Levy), after learning that his son, David (Will Pullen), is cheating on her. While all of this is going on, Bill and Venida (Celia Weston) welcome daughter Patti (Anna Camp) and granddaughter Hadley (Billie Roy) back home because of Patti’s own marital issues.
MacLachlan takes the approach of exploring what to do when it comes to parenting adult children. Can parents do this even though their children are grown adults? What responsibilities do Bill and Venida have when it comes to their children? Should they speak up when they learn that David is cheating on Tammy, let alone while doing so after learning she’s pregnant? How do the relationships change upon learning Tammy decides to have an abortion? And again, the filmmaker gets some beautiful performances out of his actors. During the Q&A, the filmmaker shared the abortion scene was shot just after the Dobbs decision was announced.
MacLachlan takes audiences to his hometown to showcase real people living in the South. In case you didn’t know, both Celia Weston and Anna Camp are from South Carolina. While the film is set in North Carolina, one couldn’t tell the difference. Speaking of Camp, I like the darker hair for the role. It’s a breath of fresh air when one realizes just how many films take place in either New York or Los Angeles. Newsflash: there’s more to the United States than the two coastal towns and plenty of stories to tell on the big or small screen. This is something that one can appreciate about this film.
While many people might think of the South as traditionally Republican, MacLachlan keeps the politics out of the film. I mean, sure, abortion and a woman’s right to choose does come up and of course, we see how Bill and Venida respond to it. It’s more from a parenting aspect than anything else. And again, it wouldn’t even come up if not for David being a complete jerk, presumably because of his own issues from being a war veteran. Regardless, the filmmaker portrays veterans in a meaningful way, even when dealing with their own mental health.
A Little Prayer might be a small indie film but Jane Levy delivers one of the best performances in her career to date.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Angus MacLachlan
CAST: David Strathairn, Jane Levy, Dascha Polanco, Will Pullen, with Anna Camp and Celia Weston
A Little Prayer holds its world premiere during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres Program. Grade: 4/5
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