Unconventional coming-of-age tale Creedmoria is James Gill’s pick for first prize film at MANIFF 2017
Greatness in the coming-of-age genre is rare. Far too often the same story gets simply repackaged with a different cast. That’s why the best films stand out, as they have unique qualities that set them apart from the crowd. In the case of Creedmoria, that quality is unconventionality.
The only comparable aspect it possesses to other films of the genre is its incomparability. For that reason alone it was hardly surprising that Alicia Slimmer won the Best Director award at this year’s Manchester Film Festival.
Set in the fictional city of Creedmoria, named after the local institution for the mentally ill Creedmoor, we follow one of the most dysfunctional families seen on the big screen through the eyes of 17-year-old Candy (Stef Dawson, Hunger Games).
Each family member has one key personality trait that is exaggerated to the nth degree to create this fantastical world. Her mother is wholly self-centred and emotionally devoid, using her children as pawns to progress her own social status. She also has two brothers. One, a drug and alcohol addict who never ceases to find ways to embarrass his mother, and the other is a closeted gay that seems to be the last person to find out about his sexuality.
The family is rounded off by their ironically named dog Cuddles. Although the entire family’s problems are amplified beyond that of anything in real life, they coalesce to form a charming family dynamic more realistic than most found within the genre.
The world Slimmer creates is similarly overemphasised, taking each stereotype of the late 70’s early 80’s era and magnifying it to an parodical level. Candy’s boyfriend Billy for example, who is terrifyingly jealous, appears to have modelled his complete physical appearance on Danny Zuko from Grease. They met at the drive in burger joint she works at, where she is relentlessly belittled by the aptly-credited ‘dickhead manager’.
Away from the people, several other elements of the film demand the viewers attention. The soundtrack is an eclectic compilation of songs with each used perfectly to either represent a particular character or scene. This eclectic theme continues in the fashion and decoration with Slimmer stating, perhaps not so unsurprisingly, that Wes Anderson has been a direct influence on her work.
As the film progresses through its story arc there are a few moments where it lurches slightly. This occurs in the form of shifts between the many individual stories and in tone, with the climax of the film being a prime instance. Whilst this can be partially forgiven due to the independent nature of the picture and the problems this triggers, most notably in the painfully low budget, it is a shame given the high quality of everything preceding it.
Creedmoria’s message is about rising above the unpleasant events that take place in your life and maintaining a resilient positive attitude regardless. Alicia Slimmer deserves high praise for her impressive debut feature. After ten years of hard work to get the film to screen, every award won is a well-deserved triumph. For me personally it was the most entertaining film at this year’s festival.