April 27, 2018 The Ballerina (Movie Review)
Suffering under the weight of family tragedy, a truly adorable tiny dancer is at the heart of the new Drama/Horror/Thriller blend, The Ballerina, which becomes available on DVD Tuesday, May 1, 2018, thanks to Cinedigm.
Tragedy strikes a family of six on the night of a little girl’s ballet recital. Left to pick up the pieces anyway he possibly can, Glen (Director Steve Pullen in his acting debut) takes his beautiful little daughter Sophia (Isabella Pullen in her acting debut) into the woods. Perhaps more accurately, to a kind of outlaw tent-city in the woods where every inhabitant is fleeing something in their past.
Here, father and daughter meet Marjorie (Valli Downey in her acting debut), a motherly figure who appears to hold the entire community together as well as handling the children’s schooling. When a new family of three joins the community, led by beautiful mom Doe (Deena Dill: Suburgatory series, Star-Crossed series), it quickly becomes evident that Marjorie is trying to play match-maker with Doe and Glen. Needless to say, Doe’s two sons – played by Del Crawford (Unavailable 2012, Christine at the Crossroads 2014) and Aidan Dunlop (Not Another Immigrant Story series, Carrington’s Rules short 2017) – are not quite sold on their mother returning to the dating pool.
Of course, nothing is ever easy and what has brought each family to this outlaw commune easily follows them through the forest’s shadows. With Sophia suffering from night terrors – seeing green lights and shadows, hearing whispers, and communicating with a mysterious girl named Annie (Alexandra Pouloutides: Wicked Attraction series, In-Lawfully Yours 2016) – and awakening screaming most nights, Glen will soon have to face facts and turn to others for support. Conveniently, Doe is a former employee of a children’s psychiatric center, and quickly informs Glen that she believes his daughter is suffering from Level 4 Psychosomatic hallucinations sparked by emotional trauma. For her part, Marjorie calls in her priest (Mark Hieronimus: The Cloth 2013), who believes that the underlying cause of the little girl’s nightmares is something much more paranormal in nature.
Clocking in at 107 minutes in-length, The Ballerina is a directorial debut for Writer/Director/Actor Steve Pullen (12 Stops on the Road to Nowhere short 1999). The film also stars Peggy Pullen; Charles Pullen; Bronson Pullen; Joseph Pullen; Michael Zeigler; Adella Gautier (Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant 2009, Now You See Me 2013); Thomas Mikal Ford (Martin series, Conflict of Interest 2017); Malachi DeWitt (Our Nation short 2015, Mother of a Day 2018); Maia Baumbach; Morgan Cryer (Insurgent 2015, The Wages of Sin short 2016); and Brianna Marsh (Hurt 2016).
The Ballerina is most intriguing in its failure to realize any of its potential: the cast – many of whom are making their acting debuts here – are good-to-excellent in their roles, with adorable Isabella Pullen giving a stellar performance in the role of Sophia. Additionally, the cinematography is beautifully-done and, through its use of dark, moody colors, sets a wonderful tone, and, similarly, even the film’s score is marvelous. Where The Ballerina flounders is in its flawed script, which is partially attempting to be a Drama about a family suffering under the weight of a series of tragedies, while also trying to dupe viewers into believing that this is the tale of a haunted little girl. Had it been successful, The Ballerina might play out somewhat like 1999’s The Sixth Sense. Simply put, there are plenty of twists in the film’s conclusion but getting there is an exercise in stamina.
The conundrum of The Ballerina is that the film never truly decides what it wants to be: an overwrought, emotional Drama or a haunting Thriller. By trying to be all things at once, The Ballerina ends up being an overreaching piece that falls flat, succeeding at neither a proper Drama nor an intriguing Thriller; and becoming just another mundane film offering with an over-inflated run-time. It is neither bad nor great, but rather a film that fails to hold the viewer’s interest due to its own identity crisis. For these reasons, CrypticRock give The Ballerina 3 of 5 stars.