Andrew Dosunmu/USA/2016/99 mins
Where Is Kyra? marks Michelle Pfeiffer’s return to the screen since the 2013 crime comedy The Family in what is the most unlikely role of her almost forty-year long career. She plays Kyra, an unemployed divorcee who looks after her elderly mother Ruth (Suzanne Shepherd). However, when Ruth dies, Kyra is unable to pay the rent for the apartment she shared with her. The film follows her desperate attempts to find the money required whilst having almost no one to turn to except Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), a sympathetic part-time taxi driver.
Pfeiffer completely convinces as Kyra, effectively conveying the character’s desperation as she fruitlessly trawls shops and restaurants in search of a menial job that will provide at least some money. There is no sense of any Hollywood-style glamour in her performance, with Pfeiffer breaking down into uncontrollable sobs at her mother’s funeral and later handing out leaflets in the pouring rain as well as begging for a loan from her ex-husband. This results in Pfeiffer’s most raw and emotional performance to date, far exceeding the vulnerability she shows in films such as Scarface and Batman Returns. Similarly, Sutherland is also believable as Doug who, like Kyra, has also fallen on hard times with an estranged daughter on the other side of the country, but who manages to maintain his dignity until he becomes involved in one of Kyra’s schemes that draws the attention of the police. Both actors disappear completely into their roles and makes their struggles identifiable, preventing their previous roles and star status from distracting from their performances.
Director Dosunmu portrays Kyra and Doug’s lonely, unforgiving New York home through a use of foreboding shadows and muted, at times almost monochrome, color grading. This staging becomes particularly effective at the film’s climax, where Kyra’s attempts to evade the police using a disguise could come across in the wrong hands as a farcical situation from a Pink Panther film but instead becomes an intense sequence with little to no humour. Dosunmu’s bleak mise-en-scene is aided by Philip Miller’s discordant score, which underlines the mounting chaos and instability of Kyra’s situation and provides this small character-based drama with the unsettling atmosphere of films such as Under The Skin.
Where Is Kyra? is an atmospheric drama showing one woman’s gradual loss of control that features Michelle Pfeiffer’s strongest performance to date.