Where Is Kyra?

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Where Is Kyra? Movie Poster Image
Strong language, drinking in dark, heavy drama.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The messages aren't positive; going into detail would lead to spoilers. Suffice it to say that hard work, perseverance, and loyalty aren't exactly rewarded. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Out of desperation, people resort to doing things they consider wrong. On the plus side, a woman is caring toward her dying mother, and a man tries to help a desperate woman.

Violence

An elderly, ailing character dies.

Sex

Sex between consenting adults is heard but not shown. Heavy making out. A woman is seen in her underwear in low light. The only nudity is nonsexual, when an ailing elderly woman is helped in the bath by her daughter.

Language

Strong language isn't constant but includes "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes of drinking. An elderly woman has a nip of something at home with her daughter. The daughter goes to a bar and has several drinks with a man, with whom she ends up going home. In another scene, she seems to have drunk herself to sleep. Character smokes a cigarette after sex.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Where Is Kyra? is a dark, heavy drama about a woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) caught in a worsening spiral of financial distress after her elderly mother's death. The main issues here are strong language (not constant, but including "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," etc.) and drinking. Some characters overdo it, once leading to a drunken hookup. Sex between consenting adults is heard but not shown; there's also heavy making out, and a woman is seen in her underwear in low light. The film's oppressive tone/mood will likely make it too intense for younger viewers. Kiefer Sutherland co-stars.

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What's the story?

After her elderly mother dies, unemployed Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer) works unsuccessfully to make ends meet. She finds comfort in a new relationship with slightly less-struggling Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), but that hardly solves her crushing financial problems. As eviction approaches, Kyra resorts to a desperate scheme. The Sundance-selected WHERE IS KYRA? was directed by Andrew Dosunmu, who also co-wrote the story. 

Is it any good?

This dark drama effectively conveys the oppressive stress of Kyra's situation, but a pall hangs over the whole endeavor. Dosunmu and award-winning cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival) tend to use camera setups that keep viewers at a distance. Subjects are shown down the hall, in another room, at the other end of the bar. Private rooms are underlit, and the characters exist in shadows. Takes are very long and static, offering little relief from the depressive air. Although Dosunmu generally creates an atmosphere that's permeated with emotion, sometimes his directorial hand feels distractingly heavy, as when loud, discordant music tells us something's wrong -- or in slow-motion scenes accompanied by string arrangements.

Pfeiffer seems to take some time to settle into the film -- though once in, she delivers one of her strongest performances. You feel how crushing the weight is upon Kyra as she hustles and scrambles. Kyra's bad decisions seem excusable thanks to the suffocating environment that Pfeiffer, Dosunmu, and screenwriter Darci Picoult generate. And Sutherland is a welcome presence. His work is right in the groove of the film. Where Is Kyra? looks at modern American poverty from an angle that's not usually seen on-screen, especially with big-name stars. This slow, weighty drama won't be for everyone, due to its pace and sometimes airless hopelessness, but for the willing, it's artfully realized. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how poverty and those struggling with it are typically shown on-screen. How does that compare to the portrayal in Where Is Kyra? How did seeing an actress like Michelle Pfeiffer playing someone struggling with poverty affect your perception of the story? 

  • How does the movie depict drinking? Why do you think the characters drank, and drank too much? Was it glamorized at all?

  • Do you think Kyra had exhausted all other options before embarking on her scheme? Were you on her side? Is she a sympathetic character? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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