Katie Says Goodbye is a new drama film written and directed by Wayne Roberts (The Professor) and starring Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One). The movie stars Cooke as a seventeen year-old girl who, having dreams of starting anew in San Francisco, works as a prostitute in her small town in order to save enough money to leave. It has played at festivals including the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.
The thing to know going into this film is that it is extremely difficult to watch, and that is on purpose. However, the movie does at times take this too far to the point that it feels excessively uncomfortable and like something you shouldn’t be watching. Particularly troublesome is the fact that the protagonist in the film is a seventeen-year-old and yet all of this is still happening without any interference or questions.
Not even taking into account the suspension of disbelief that this story requires, this aspect makes you feel overwhelming disgust. Luckily, Roberts did not shoot any of the sexual scenes in a way that is remotely titillating, but it still feels overly graphic given that the protagonist is supposed to be underaged. The movie could have used a ton more subtlety with these elements, such as having them occur off-screen.
In a stark contrast to his other film, Roberts creates a protagonist that is intensely likable and sympathetic in this movie. Katie’s kindness and desperation make her into an underdog for whom you are rooting despite the horrible things the world is throwing at her. In this way, Roberts presents his cynicism towards the world not through a cynical protagonist, but by having an optimistic protagonist face the world.
The pacing of the film isn’t terrible, but the uncomfortable nature of the movie does make the runtime of less than an hour and a half feel longer than it is. At times, the film starts to feel repetitive as we watch Katie getting into similar situations over and over again, but this vicious cycle does seem to be Roberts’s point with the movie.
The performances are undeniably the best part of this film. Cooke is at her best in her leading role, delivering a performance that is emotionally rich and nuanced. She is a majority of the reason why the movie works so well and should continue to get strong and deep roles like this. The supporting cast is filled with solid but small turns from well-known faces, such as Mary Steenburgen, Jim Belushi, and Chris Lowell.
On a technical level, the film was relatively strong. For the most part, the cinematography is pretty good, focusing more on the emotion of the performances in the scene than anything else. There is one scene in particular that is effectively shocking because of the way in which it was shot and edited. The sound design is also used quite interestingly at times, including in the aforementioned scene.
Overall, Katie Says Goodbye was a solid movie, but the awkward feeling audiences will get while watching it may prevent it from landing like it should. Still, it is worth watching for the phenomenal cast and interesting commentary.
Katie Says Goodbye is now in theaters and on VOD.