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Director Beth Brickell on the set with Mariette Hartley.


The Hollywood Reporter, June 10, 1981

"A Rainy Day"


by Gail Williams

     "Less is more" is one of those film school precepts that many aspiring filmmakers blithely go on to ignore professionally.  Nonetheless, when this principle of visual drama is carried out with the skill found in Beth Brickell's "A Rainy Day," it's enough to make one think those celluloid professors knew what they were talking about.  Brickell, formerly an actress, directed, produced, wrote and co-edited this award-winning half-hour film while in the American Film Institute's Fellowship program.  It's an unstintingly intimate, autobiographical work, and anyone who ever gave much thought to their relationship with their parents should find it intensely rewarding.

     The film features Mariette Hartley as a successful actress, estranged from her mother (Collin Wilcox), who returns home to Texas for her father's funeral on a rainy day.  Rummaging through her father's memories triggers childhood memories which elucidate the origins of ambivalent attitudes the actress harbors towards her mother.  Flashbacks in which Eric Holland portrays the father, and Tracey Gold plays the actress as a little girl, are strands of memory deftly woven into the fabric of the scenario by Brickell and co-editor Erwin Dumbrille.  Emotions explored by the actress in her reverie culminate in a flash of anger that gives way instantaneously to a healing flood of love.

     Conversation is sparse in the film, but dialogue written by the filmmaker, in association with her parents, Mary Shryock Brickell and Carter R. Brickell, has the multilayered ring of truth found in deceptively mundane exchanges between people who habitually repress their rawest feelings.  In this - and in the lucid restraint with which Hartley mutely expresses her character's trenchant realizations under Brickell's measured direction - "A Rainy Day" is a powerful and moving example of how less can, indeed, sometimes by more.


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