Directed by: Karen Moncrieff
Written by: Karen Moncrieff
Starring: David Strathairn, Agnes Bruckner, Margaret Colin, Frances Fisher
Those we find inspiration in carry a role model status that helps shape us, and the moments where they show themselves at their weakest can create a shattering effect that harms us in the end. When the harm becomes more pointed, everything you once believed of the person can crumble into the feeble belief you held. Something I would not wish on anyone but evidently takes place in the equally inspiring and uncomfortable Blue Car.
Megan (Agnes Bruckner) lives at home caring for her younger sister after her father abandoned them and her mother works 12-hour shifts. It puts a heavy burden on her, but her teacher, Mr. Auster (David Strathaim) believes in her poetic talent. Through her prose, she wins a local competition with the opportunity to attend a larger one in Orlando.
The beginnings of Blue Car start with a type of story seen before because it’s common in storytelling and life in general. A teenage daughter constantly fighting with her mother about an array of issues, but in this case, it feels reasonable on both ends. The mother wants to provide for her two daughters by working long shifts and attending school. An admirable amount of effort for the good of her children, while the daughter, in this case, must fend for herself. It creates a lack of support pushing her farther away from family and towards someone else to provide her with some sort of guidance, which leads to her connection with her teacher.
The inspirational teacher role has become a staple of many films ranging from the humanistic in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society or even the sarcastic much like in The Edge of Seventeen. Teachers have been given the role of someone who gets underpaid but still inspires young folks to strive for what they want to achieve, and rightfully so. I’ve seen it firsthand and I hope others had at least one teacher, who had belief in them and pushed them to achieve more than ever expected. It’s something Megan initially receives from Mr. Auster until she doesn’t.
Blue Car tells an incredibly melancholic story about those who let down the young people around them, with Megan being that unfortunate person in this case. At each turn, she yearns for connection but gets immediately burned in the end. It’s shameful and Mr. Auster becomes a glaring example of this. Megan’s heartbreaking poem, which matches the title of the film, comes from a place of pain, as it’s how she describes the car her father drove. The very car he used to drive away from her and the family while continuing to not pay child support. The men in her life have caused her nothing but pain, which makes this is ultimately a story about surviving and pushing past the failures around you.
Agnes Bruckner as Megan melds a form of teenage angst with a maturity rarely seen in such a young person. She vividly portrays the character of Megan with her method of doing whatever it takes to find an escape from her life. The trip to Orlando and the poem competition provides her with that and she’s willing to steal in order to raise the funds to go. Megan is scrappy and perceptive of her environment, which only makes things worse when she gets betrayed by the individuals she leaves her guard down for.
This film marks the greatest work done by Karen Moncrieff as a director in the way she lets us believe everything will be okay until it’s not. The technical aspects work on a beautiful level, including the cinematography. The best moment shows itself on the beach in Orlando, where Megan walks along. As the audience, we don’t explicitly know what flows through her mind like narration would do, but as the story progresses, we know this character enough to understand her feelings. The story hits hard because it veers in a completely different direction than most stories focusing on a teacher-student inspirational relationship. There is no grand moment of an emotional breakthrough as seen in all of those films, instead, Blue Car hits with a realism unafraid to smash you in the mouth.
Heading into watching Blue Car, I had no idea what to expect from it but I received a strongly made and competent film about surviving and thriving as a teenage girl. It manages to sprinkle those inspirational moments within the gloom pattern her life has become. The only safe haven Megan has comes from her poetry and the moment where she presents it in Orlando says much more than you could imagine and it left me in chills with its power.