Written and directed by Eric Mattson and starring Stacie Barra, A. Monnie Aleahmad, Becky Crawford, Nina Trader, Derek Braasch, Jimmy Shay and Bud Revall, Julie’s Smile is an art house drama. Julie is a gentle, peaceful woman who would never hurt a fly. She would probably cry if she saw a fly get hurt. Julie is a poet, painter and lover of art. Always with her trademark smile, Julie loves the earth and all that grows from it. But darkness creeps into Julie’s beautiful world. When things go bad and life gets dark, through her darkness, her love prevails. Take a walk with Julie.
The first thing I noticed about this film is that it seems heavily influenced by Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Julie is an artist and writer who starts seeing herself everywhere much like Nina does in Black Swan. There are also several instances of similarities in Julie’s artwork and in the moments where she starts covering up mirrors to hide from herself – art and mirrors were huge themes in Black Swan as well.
So while not entirely original, Julie’s Smile is an interesting look into the life of a young woman with schizophrenia (at least that’s the assumption I’m making). Julie works at a flower shop and spends most of her time writing and drawing, either in coffee shops or in the woods. Stacie Barra does a wonderful job as Julie, giving a performance that never crosses the line of pure ridiculousness which would be easy given the material. Stacie as Julie is whimsical, then neurotic; childlike and full of wonder. Eventually Julie meets a man and falls in love, then slowly starts to go deeper down the rabbit hole. The question is – can she make it back?
Let’s start with what didn’t exactly work for me. Julie has a best friend and sister, both of whom looked very similar to me, so much so that I thought that they were one and the same until the director mentioned to me after that they were different characters and different actresses. That definitely changed how I viewed the film because I thought Julie’s sister was kind of a jerk to Julie (but it was actually the best friend that was kind of a jerk). It also makes the scene with the sister seem a bit extraneous in introducing another character for what I’m sure was for some more background on Julie but didn’t give that much insight into her. Also confusing were two random scenes: one near the beginning featuring a whole bunch of Goth kids making out and another near the end featuring a random guy seemingly locked in a woodshed who has a confrontation with Julie. One can assume these are merely illusions in Julie’s mind but they seem to have no correlation to anything else in the film while the rest of the random scenes did fit into the overall scheme of things.
What did work? The shots of Julie dancing in fields were beautiful and as previously stated, Stacie Barra’s performance was wonderful. The story is intriguing if muddled and it’s a fun watch giving the viewer plenty of room to make their own interpretations.
It seems as if the filmmaker was trying to draw on not only an Aronofsky influence but a Lynch influence as well but where Lynch somehow makes his randomness work no matter what the context, the randomness didn’t flow as smoothly here. If you’re a fan of art house cinema or avant garde works or even just films that delve into the psychological, you’ll probably enjoy Julie’s Smile. You can learn more about the film by visiting their IMDB page and their Facebook page.