A Story in Black & White (2016)


A young woman finds out she is pregnant and spends an increasingly overwhelming week trying to figure out what to do and what she wants her life to be.

Written and directed by Brendan Kane, A Story in Black & White explores the difficulties a young woman faces when she is suddenly faced with more responsibilities than she is ready for. The lead character of Lucy may make a few odd choices along the way but her plight is well documented and her inner conflict is well explored. Kane creates here a good connection between his lead of Lucy and the viewer. The character created is not the most likable of leading ladies but she has become this way for valid reasons and her struggles as presented are believable and relatable. The further the film advances, the more she becomes relatable in her struggles and how she does things.

Playing the lead of Lucy is actress Caylie Rae Kalmbach who gives her character a personality that starts off a bit grating but them mellows out and becomes someone the viewer can get attached to. She shows a slight arc that works for the film and for her character. Kalmbach shows a range of emotions and imbues Lucy with just the right angst. Her interpretation is one of the main reasons the film works. As the story and film advance, Kamlbach becomes a strong pull to the film and her performance becomes the anchor of the story. Giving a strong layered performance is Janina Martin as Helen, Lucy’s mom, who starts off standoff-ish and moves slowly towards a more caring mother. Janina Martin does great work of giving an older mother who is a layered human with her own worries while still being a caring, loving mother even if it doesn’t always show clearly. Playing Lucy’s sister and Helen’s other daughter Shannon is Erin Rooney. Her interpretation is one that comes off self-righteous and a bit annoying, which maybe the point. This does, however, make her come off as someone the viewer will want to see less of. Playing the men in Lucy’s life are actors Cougar Littlefield as Craig, Luke Sorge as Brock, and Kevon Ward as Donny, all do good work but feel almost erased from the story with the exception of Kevon Ward who is more memorable in his performance and thus has a bigger impact.

As the title suggests, the film is in black and white, specifically high contrast black and white. The cinematography by Ryan Dearth is carefully planned with static shots that work great for the story and to let the cast shine. The stark black and white images add interest to film visually while also letting the story and characters be the main point of focus for the viewer. A few sequences steal the show however, showing that sometimes less is more and strategic visual decisions can have a great impact. A couple of examples of this are the scene where Lucy gets out of bed and leaves one man there sleeping. The way this is shot exudes loneliness while two characters are present. Then, later in the film, Lucy is seen outside of a diner from the inside. The use of the diner window as a frame with the exterior’s almost pitch black darkness versus the interior’s bright whites show attention to details and an understanding of color and light in how to influence how a scene comes off. These are just two examples of how this film is built not only on story and characters, but also on visuals and their impact.

A Story in Black & White is a strong film with a complex lead who is trying to figure out life as things are thrown at her, forcing her to mature fast and make hard decisions. The acting is good, especially from lead actress Caylie Rae Kalmbach, and the visuals are strong with a great use of stark black and white cinematography that is carefully planned and executed. A Story in Black & White is a good outing from writer/director Brendan Kane and it piques the curiosity as to what he may do next.