Hard to watch, easy to love

Nicole Fox, known to all from her deserved win on America’s Next Top Model, has shown some great promise as an actor, with her portrayal of Ashley, a 17 year-old self-harmer. She was not only convincing, but clearly put a lot into this role and with the help of some solid direction from Dean Matthew Ronalds, that really came through in her performance. The supporting cast too, were all, each of them, very good with a strong showing from Jennifer Taylor who played mom Stacy. Taylor was like an old pro (and still looking good) who brought her acting chops to each and every scene with Nicole. This was very much what was needed, as Ashley remained unresponsive to Stacy throughout, so some deft acting was called for with those particular scenes.

This is the first film I’ve seen by director Dean Matthew Ronalds and I was really impressed by his handling of his subject matter, because while this type of story could have easily been turned into the ever-popular lesbo-erotic type of movie, claiming style as the motivation, he instead gives something way more interesting and also more rewarding. Ronalds is a director I’ll be keeping an eye out for in future and I expect more of the same from him, because I really did like his handling of this film. His choice of music was good and loved the way he used it to isolate Ashley as she shut the world out, not hearing anything, so all we can hear is the music.

Ashley
Directed by
Dean Matthew Ronalds
Cast
Nicole Fox, Jennifer Taylor, Nicole Buehrer, Michael Madsen
Release Date
9 August, 2013
Influx Grade: B+

Michael Madsen as mom’s new boyfriend Bill was a bit unnecessary, but bringing in a well known actor was probably needed to help sell the film. Madsen is making more movies than you could shake a low-budget stick at, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Tax or something no doubt. Regardless, he was his usual OK self, but will always be, to me at least, “the guy who cut off the cops ear while doing a little shuffle,” character acting be damned.

Ashley has shut out the world ever since her dad died. She chats online to strangers, other women, seeking friendship or more but her mom isn’t exactly helping matters, by failing to try and properly communicate with her daughter and resorts to verbal and physical abuse at times. Ashley is seeing the school shrink, who, after noticing a cigarette burn on her arm, orders an evaluation done at her home with mom there. Stacy is very angry at this and threatens to take Ashley’s computer away as she continues to ignore and mess things up for her mother. Ashley is also gay but unable to convey her emotions properly, witnessed when she gets way too rough with her first female encounter, frightening the girl by pulling out a knife, wanting her to share in her pain, thanks to Ashley associating self-harming with eroticism. She is thought weird at school by almost everyone, but because of this, attracts unwanted attention by a couple of boys, both of whom are interesting but in extremely different ways. Group therapy and shrinks can’t help her, and there’s clearly something going on with her dread of men, but then she meets a like-minded woman online.

This wasn’t an easy film to watch, thanks to a wonderful performance by Nicole Fox, showing she was doing something right. And even though she had almost no dialogue, said it all and more with only her features. I hope this isn’t just her one good performance as I’d really like to see more from this promising young actor. She has a presence about her that demands to be noticed. Well I certainly noticed and now I want see some more.

Nav Qateel