Recent headlines have suggested that Nick Cassavetes, the writer/director made Yellow as some form of incest tribute. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like Alpha Dog and John Q before it, Yellow focuses on the innocence of youth and the myriad dangers children face. Yellow, without judgment, looks inside the life and mind of Mary Holmes, a young teacher struggling in adulthood with the after effects of childhood sexual abuse and growing up in a deeply dysfunctional family. Mary's struggles include prescription pill abuse, sexual promiscuity, deep emotional detachment from life, imaginary children, and a seemingly hopeless search for adult stability and respectability. You could not portray a childhood incest/sex abuse survivor more accurately or realistically. The movie passes no judgments. It effortlessly cuts between Mary's real life and her inner, sometimes imaginary, sometimes real memories and events. No one is demonized, the audience is allowed to pass its own judgments on everyone, including Mary. Most of the major issues are put up on the screen like haikus- you only get at what Mr Cassavetes is really saying in the film if you pay close attention to the details. You get clues, not billboards. Mary is shown as complicit in her childhood abuse (Daveigh Chase as young Mary is perfect in the role)- as if children are EVER complicit. Melanie Griffith plays Mary's mother- an outwardly loving and Christian woman who drinks huge glasses of wine midafternoon and was unfaithful in her marriage. If she was or is a bad mother, you have to figure it out. Heather Wahlquist plays Mary as outwardly numb and inwardly tortured so well you wonder if her co- writing credit has an autobiographical twist. One certainly hopes not, no one would want to be or should have to be Mary. Which is, of course, Mr Cassavetes point.
Yellow is not an easy movie. But it tells a gripping story with an accuracy and compassion that is striking in its depth and complexity. As painful as it is in many places, the movie leaves you not just with a story about the searing results of childhood abuse, but with the very real message that, no matter the depths of the childhood disaster, there is always hope.
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