Put simply, Max Carlson’s Princess of the Row is a near-perfect film. Following the life of 12-year-old Alicia, played brilliantly by Tayler Buck, who has entered the foster care system but wishes to live with her homeless war veteran father instead, the film manages to exist simultaneously as a harrowing story of a survival and a heartwarming tale about family.
The relationship between Buck and Edi Gathegi, who plays her father, is mesmerising to watch, and his brief moments of lucidity between PTSD flashbacks stand out as immensely moving scenes. However, the film’s true crowning glory is Carlson’s deft handling of topics like mental illness, homelessness, prostitution and addiction and his ability to combine them to create a bleak backdrop against which the father-daughter relationship shines.
In addition to the film’s story is its cinematography, which beautifully contrasts the grimy streets of downtown Los Angeles with the lush greens and blues of her potential foster home in rural California and acts as a sublime metaphor for Alicia’s seemingly impossible choice between her family and her future.
Overall, Princess of the Row is a truly magnificent and uplifting piece of independent film-making which stands out as a hidden gem in MANIFF’s 2019 line-up.
The 5th Manchester Film Festival is taking place at the ODEON Great Northern from 2nd March to 10th March 2019.