Writer-director Stephen Cone’s latest feature, “Princess Cyd,” is a film that defies expectation and easy categorization. As comfortable to slip into as an afternoon in the sun, as satisfying as a late-night piece of cake, “Princess Cyd” is a jewel of a film that plumbs thematic depths far below its surface.
The film takes place during a Chicago summer, when teenage Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) spends a few weeks at the home of her novelist aunt, Miranda (Rebecca Spence), a fleeting moment in time that is ultimately transformative for both women.
Both Pinnick and Spence project powerful, naturalistic charisma, which Cone smartly showcases with an airy tone and style. Cyd and Miranda are very much opposites in the way they experience the world. Cyd is a sensualist, inhabiting her body fully, bursting with youthful vigor and energy, ready to try anything and everything. Miranda is intellectual, spiritual, and set in her ways and rituals. Neither approach is privileged, and as Miranda says in a stunning late-night kitchen-cleaning monologue, “our happiness is unique.”
Male violence intrudes on this world — Cyd and Miranda are bonded by the murder of Cyd’s mother many years ago. That very real threat somehow never upends their bubble, and the film is a subtle argument for the necessity of female mentors and protectors.
“Princess Cyd” is many things: a queer coming-of-age story (Malic White is fantastic as Cyd’s summer fling Katie), a tribute to intergenerational friendship, a redemption tale. But it also captures one deeply significant thing, that moment when family members transform from strangers to loved ones.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills