The following review is coverage for the Twin Cities Film Fest.
Beauty Mark is a small film that is hyper-focused on one family’s struggles over a weeks’ time. It uses the well-trodden territory of the film about a struggling young mother to tell a story of endurance and personal growth for a woman who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It looks head-on at the ugly reality of how willing people are to deny what happened, and it does so with a harsh eye that doesn’t shy away from showing the complexities inherent in these situations.
Angie (Auden Thornton) is a woman with a lot on her plate; she is working a dead-end job at a convenience store, supporting her alcoholic mother, and caring for her young son with special needs. When the power goes out one day, it sets off a spiral of issues that result in her home being condemned and she has to immediately come up with almost $2000 for a deposit on a new place to stay. When her backup plans come to nothing, Angie decides to sue the man who molested her as a child and discovers that the statute of limitations has passed her by. Her desperation drives her down a dark path that pushes Angie to make some harrowing decisions and confront her abuser with what he did to her all those years ago.
Angie’s life is one of poverty and endless hard work, and when it reaches rock bottom she must choose between options that leave her questioning her place in society and how she came to be in this situation. Auden Thornton is heartbreaking as Angie, as she drives the film with her deft performance and succeeds in portraying Angie as a sympathetic and multi-dimensional woman. Angie’s mother, Ruth Ann (Catherine Curtin), is a woman who is so deep into the booze that you can almost smell it. Her character goes back and forth between semi-abusive parent and awkward protector of her family with a speed and skill that is dizzying, and Curtin is equally good at both roles. Jeff Kober plays Bruce, the man who abused Angie, and he is suitably creepy; the few scenes that he and Thornton share are squirm-inducing with a tension that is tinged with a sense of danger.
Some of the events in Beauty Mark are based on the experiences of one of the producers of the film. At a Q & A after this writer’s screening, the director, Harris Doran, spoke about how he had interlaced the producer’s story with his own ideas to create something different, and perhaps this is why the film has a feeling of truth to it. It avoids generalizing, and instead it shows some the different effects that childhood sexual abuse can have on people. Angie speaks with a few of Bruce’s other victims and each has reacted differently to it, but none are portrayed negatively, only as people dealing with their own trauma the best they can.
Films about child abuse are usually difficult to watch, and at times that is true of Beauty Mark, even though there are no scenes of assault. It is hard because of how frank it is when it shows what the consequences of that abuse have been for the survivors, how it changes people and affects them daily. The film has a compassion for its subjects and shines a light on the small things that are so often left out of these kinds of stories.