Princess of the Row is a new drama film co-written and directed by Max Carlson. The movie follows a runaway foster child as she attempts to fight to stay with her father, a mentally-ill and disabled veteran who is living homeless on Los Angeles’s skid row. It has played at festivals including the 2019 Florida Film Festival.
Although the core story of the film is interesting, it feels too similar to other (better) movies that have come before, such as Leave No Trace. This film copies those same story beats to the note, ultimately feeling unoriginal and derivative. The message that the movie has to say about the country’s treatment of veterans is definitely important, but again, this has been done more effective in other films before.
The reason that this movie is bearable is that the characters are relatively sympathetic. The protagonist is a bit annoying at times because of the bad and selfish decisions she seems to constantly be making, although she still always gets immediate sympathy because of the situation in which she is placed. It is her father, though, that is the most compelling part of the film, as he adds the truly harrowing parts of the story.
In terms of emotion, the movie frequently feels over-the-top and manipulative. There are a handful of moments, particularly towards the middle of the film, that draw you out because of how excessive and contrived they feel. There is one scene in particular that is frustratingly out-of-place, and it will be evident which this is if you see the movie. That being said, the ending is effective and does pull at the heartstrings.
The pacing of the film is inconsistent at best. After getting off to a strong start, the movie ultimately feels like it is doing the same thing over and over again. Although the nature of the conflict does change, it still has the same effect on the characters as what came before, ultimately resulting in the film as a whole feeling rather redundant. The middle portion of the movie drags significantly, so when the ending finally comes, you breathe a sigh of relief.
The acting in the film is undeniably the best part. Child actress Tayler Buck gives a very strong performance, especially for an actress as young as she is. She does a phenomenal job of selling the emotion of the movie. Supporting actor Edi Gathegi does a solid job too, although his performance does begin to feel somewhat over-the-top at times. Martin Sheen gives a small but impactful supporting turn as well.
On a technical level, the film accomplishes what it sets out to do, but that doesn’t exactly fit what the movie should be doing. The film means to be a fairytale in which the protagonist is a princess. However, the movie doesn’t seem to embrace this fully, having a few fantastic shots that have that surreal and glowing quality, instead mostly feeling dark and gloomy. Had the film went consistently one way or the other, it would have been much better.
Overall, Princess of the Row was a very disappointing movie. Although the story does show some potential, the script is so generic and the execution so inconsistent that it is ultimately too messy to make an impact.
Princess of the Row played at the 2019 Florida Film Festival.