The Cathedral Complete Movie Review

The Cathedral Movie Review: The little Maisie is an innocent bystander and victim of her narcissistic parents’ divorce in Henry James’ 1897 book What Maisie Knew. What Maisie Knew is a “modernist” book (before modernism as a literary movement emerged), and this can be attributed to its point of view. We see Maisie’s six-year-old mind attempting to comprehend since the story is exclusively told from her point of view.

What Maisie Knew and Ricky D’Ambrose’s “The Cathedral,” which is presented as fiction but has the ring of autobiography and tells of both his parents’ divorce and the complex adult relationships surrounding him as a child, both succeed in telling the story of adults solely through the eyes of a child. If the narrative were told from the viewpoint of the adults, it would be commonplace. A extremely unsettling and emotional experience, the same event is narrated from the perplexed (but insightful) perspective of a youngster.

In “The Cathedral,” form and content are strikingly combined. There is a voiceover (Madeleine James), who adopts a third-person “objective” voice, along with still-life images of the locations mentioned (Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Atlantic City), news clips from the era, revisiting previous scandals (Chandra Levy, George W. Bush’s 30-day vacation), or significant events (Desert Storm, the crash of TWA flight 800, September 11). D’Ambrose avoids clogging up the story with flip-book-style editing. While the camera remains on a scene of a sunlit rug, a child’s artwork, food on tables, including a half-eaten birthday cake, and the catered fare offered during events in the child’s life like birthdays, confirmation, high school graduation, etc., adult voices can be overheard conversing. This aesthetic plus the voiceover put a huge barrier between us and the characters. What we see happening as a marriage dissolves is commonplace. Divorce occurs in over 50% of couples. We can lean in and relate on a deeper level because to the intimate point of view and distant style. There are hardly any close-up shots.

Let’s begin where we left off. The narrator explains that Jesse Damrosch was born shortly after his uncle passed away from AIDS when his parents were on vacation in Puerto Rico (the family told everyone he died of “liver disease,” and seem to tell themselves that as well). Uncles, aunts, grandparents, and a great-grandmother are among the names that seem to be accumulating inexorably. Many of them are either not speaking to one another or are about to sever ties. This is a family that harbours resentments on both sides. In the middle is Jesse, a serious young boy who appears to be attempting to blend into the background in order to protect himself from the turbulent emotional lives of the people in care of him (played at various ages by Robert Levey II and William Bednar-Carter).

Although Richard (Brian d’Arcy James) and Lydia (Monica Barbaro) get off to a good start, the voiceover lets us know right on that something could be a little “odd,” especially with Richard. It takes a while for Lydia’s father’s disapproval of Richard to become clear. Richard reacts angrily because he is uneasy. Nobody is even sure why Lydia’s mother and aunt are still at odds after years of conflict. Among her grandchildren is a great-grandmother who gets moved around. No one wants to look after her. The union between Lydia and Richard breaks down. They both get remarried. Richard and his wife are very much “sketch,” as they say.

Jesse barely speaks at all, and the voiceover, oddly enough, is mainly interested in the adult tragedies. I wanted to say something in response to that cold voice about half the time “What’s Jesse’s condition? What do you think about him? He has buddies, right? What’s his condition? Why doesn’t anyone care about Jesse’s condition?” This is what the faraway style offers, and this is what makes Henry James’ story come to mind. The adults are so self-absorbed and protective that they show the six-year-old all of their ugly selves without ever thinking about the consequences.

Jesse was oddly described as “calm and unperturbed” in a review of “The Cathedral.” I witnessed a little youngster who was aware of how unpredictable, greedy, and petty the adults around him were. It seems sense that he isolates himself as a means of survival.

“The Cathedral’s” acting appears to have been “caught on camera” rather than “played.” The acting is similar to what Joanna Hogg’s actors accomplish when she positions the camera at the edge of a room and lets people enter and go while overhearing discussions in the adjacent room. This necessitates a performative reality similar to a documentary. As talks are heard in voiceover, D’Ambrose concentrates on feet, hands, and other incidental features. Sometimes the conversation is pleasant banter, but there is a lot going on below.

Brian d’Arcy James portrays a man filled with resentment and anger who thinks like the world has let him down and who believes that the world ought to be more accepting of him, even with just a few close-up shots. His performance is incredibly perceptive (and disturbing). All the rooms are packed up at one point because he made a last-minute call while on a miserable trip to Atlantic City with his son and his new wife. Nothing is easy, he says as he slams the phone on the ground. Richard can be a dangerous guy. He spoils time spent with family. Everyone cringes in fear of what he might do.

In a voiceover, likely delivered in class, the young Jesse, who is interested in photography and filmmaking, explains toward the end of the movie what he thinks a picture of his two aunts lounging on his parents’ bed in happier times means to him. Jesse examines the setting, the lighting, and the things that have already been seen in still life throughout the movie. Although the mournfulness is subtext rather than text, there is a sense of melancholy throughout this discourse. Jesse concentrates on the material information. The way the light hits a rug reminds him of the mayhem of his childhood—the suffering brought on by the adults acting in frightful, cruel ways around him. It will always be with him.

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