Cloudburst featured image

Thom Fitzgerald, director and script

Starring: Olympia Dukakis (Stella), Brenda Fricker (Dot), Ryan Doucette (Prentice), Kristin Booth (Molly), Mary-Colin Chisholm (Ynez), John Dunsworth (Arnold), Michael McPhee (Tommy)

The buzz
Olympia Dukakis won a best supporting Oscar playing Cher’s mother in Moonstruck and Brenda Fricker won her Academy Award as Daniel Day-Lewis’s mother in My Left Foot. Now, they’re together, playing long-time lesbian lovers in Cloudburst. If there’s buzz around this film, that’s the cause of it.

Lesbian romance; road film; character study; Zoomer love

The premise
Stella (Dukakis) and Dot (Fricker) have been lovers for 31 years. Dot has gone blind and is ill but the salty-speaking Stella still loves her passionately. Molly, Dot’s naïve but willful granddaughter, gets her placed in an old age home over Stella’s violent objections.

The resourceful Stella sneaks Dot out of the home and the two take off from Bangor, Maine to Nova Scotia, where they can get married. On the road, they pick up Prentice, a dancer from Nova Scotia who has left New York to return home to see his sick mother.

The three have to cross the border—easier said than done, especially when there’s an all points bulletin out on Stella and Dot, meet Prentice’s difficult family and arrange for a lesbian marriage (where Prentice can be the best man for both of them). Molly has to come to terms with the reality that her grandmother is a lesbian. And Dot has to confront her own mortality.

Cloudburst’s rather languid plot rests on these decisive events.

The performances
Olympia Dukakis is memorably funny as Stella, a really salty “broad,” who curses up a storm and can create a drama around making breakfast. She’s wonderful in this film. If Cloudburst had a bigger budget, Dukakis would be up for awards for her performance. She’s at the heart of this picture: a seemingly tough old woman with a romantic heart and a grand sense of humour.

Brenda Fricker has a less showy role but she’s full value, especially in her big scenes, when she gets to lovingly fight with Stella about getting married and explain her love life to her in-denial granddaughter.

The writer-director
Thom Fitzgerald has created a couple of memorable characters in Stella and Dot. And he’s come up with a reasonably effective plot. But he hasn’t figured out how to make most of the scenes exciting. A long sequence in Prentice’s family rural house, for example, is supposed to be funny and rude. But the main joke around Dot falling into bed with Prentice’s dad doesn’t come off, nor does the contrasting scene—intended to be sentimental—between Prentice and his mother. We get the idea but the execution doesn’t work.

The skinny
It’s hard not to like Cloudburst, with its feisty lesbian lovers and low-budget verité style. This is a film for particular audiences. If the plot and characters appeal to you, go for it. You’ll enjoy it.

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