Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Written by: Anne Meredith
Starring: Kyra Sedgwick, Aidan Quinn, Sherilyn Fenn, Kevin Bacon
Speaking on past trauma comes with its challenges so personal, forcing someone to confront it seems cruel. As we see in Cavedweller, this path towards trying to redeem something incredibly painful in one’s past comes with a cost. However, the end result may just be worth it.
After leaving her children and abusive husband behind years ago, Delia (Kyra Sedgwick) comes back from Nashville and gets met with pushback from the community members of the small Georgia town. Now, with more conviction than ever, she hopes to re-enter the lives of her daughters and make right what occurred years ago.
The story of Cavedweller arrives with plenty of drama and something that can impact anyone who has experienced what Delia has in her life. It makes for heartbreaking circumstances where a mother must choose between personal safety and being there for her children. Obviously one cannot judge when under duress in that manner but that will not stop the people of this town. Expectedly, Delia arrives at this small town and everyone remembers how she left her children, but don’t pay as much mind to the abuses she endured from her ex-husband. This raises a larger discussion about the standards of motherhood set for women and how it can be used to keep others down.
Mothers are expected to do everything for their kids and endure the worst circumstances and because Delia chose personal safety on an emotional and physical level, she gets demonized. Her welcome back to Georgia comes with what many would not call Southern hospitality. Delia’s return also sets up two different worlds colliding right in front of her with her offspring. Delia had two daughters who she left behind but as she returns to Georgia, she comes with a new daughter. One who grew up in Nashville and the two left behind in this small town. The adjustment comes with its challenges but it provides Delia with the chance to confront her past and look for a better future.
The success of this film lies flatly on the shoulders of Kyra Sedgwick and she delivers a fine performance as this strong mother. She possesses the composure necessary for this role, as she tries to endure the venom spewed at her from the locals and attempts to make a situation right. Sedgwick carries power with her performance, which demands recognition and she becomes the best feature of this movie.
For the themes and ideas this film wants to explore. Some of it does feel like it could have dug deeper than the surface. The narrative remains focused on Delia, but the story feels partly incomplete with the backstory provided by the film. Delia, as a character, brings such richness, which could have been mined for more, but what we got landed in the “fine” category.
The largest obstacle the film had to clear came in the form of Delia confronting her ex-husband about what occurred in the past between them. Having another interaction with him would surely bring her plenty of pain but everything leads up to the moment where they stand face-to-face to speak on what occurred and how to move forward. The uneasiness of leading up to this eventual confrontation makes any moments of elation feel short-sided. The result creates a moment of catharsis and a major moment for Delia in her journey.
Directing the feature, we have Lisa Cholodenko who knows how to tell decent family dramas and she succeeds once again with putting forth this resonant story. Her focus on telling these distinct female-centered stories makes her an important voice in cinema. She does this with all of her films, even though none of them would be classified as great in my opinion. What her other films lack plagues this film but the stories she puts forward have a level of richness worth discussing.
Cavedweller will have you feeling uncomfortable at times if you hate getting dirty looks, as Delia must contend with them for the entirety of this film. It presents the journey of a mother looking for redemption and closure for a time of her life she never thought she wanted to address again. A true testament of motherhood and what it means to sacrifice for your children.