Of daughters, dads, and axes: An Invisible Sign, Dir. Marilyn Agrelo

Dear friends  – Greetings!  We’ve been on hiatus over at Magically Real HQ, because we have to work for a living and that work has gotten a bit overwhelming of late.

But we don’t want the holiday season to go out without a little postmodern cheer brought to you by film director Marilyn Agrelo.  The film we recommend is An Invisible Sign, based on the novel by Aimee Bender.

Now available on cable or for instant view on Netflix, An Invisible Sign received some unkind reviews when it appeared in movie theaters this past spring, and we’d like to respond to these.

But first a quick synopsis of the story:  Mona Grey, the protagonist of the film is a weird young woman.  Obsessed with and overly attached to her father, who thinks he is dying, Mona lives a stunted ascetic life.  Convinced that if she renounces pleasures, her father will be cured, Mona continually renounces like a latter day St. Theresa, and becomes a substitute Math teacher at the school she attended as a kid.

A few items for your consideration:

1.  Critics didn’t like the father-daughter aspect of the story, and scorned Mona’s unhealthy love for Daddy.

Having just watched the season finale of BOARDWALK EMPIRE, we over here at Magically Real are curious as to why sons’ obsessions with their moms are fascinating and deep, (and sexy), but why daughters’ obsessions with their fathers are just dumb.

2.  Critics also balked at the portrayal of an elementary school where the teachers are eccentric and the kids out of control.

“Aha!”  We say over at Magically Real HQ.  “Here we go again with the school!”

It’s interesting to us how the fact that American schools ARE in trouble, that teachers DON’T know what to do with kids, and that kids themselves bring all kinds of tragedies into the classroom is not a story that critics think that people want to hear.

3.  In the end, critics of An Invisible Sign deplored the use of whimsy for grim situations.

But that, dear critics, is how fairy-tales work.  Think of the Grimm Brothers’ version of Cinderella (which ends with blinding the sisters [the birdies do it])!  And what about Hans Christian Anderson?  Look at what happens at the end of the Little Mermaid (the story, not the movie)!

We would like to point out that Invisible Sign should be understood as a fairy-tale. It even BEGINS with one, for Pete’s sake.

So—- if we can accept all the decapitations and dragons of GAME OF THRONES, can’t we just DEAL when fictional kids wield a fictional axe in a fictional third grade classroom?   Similarly, if we can cope with strange female protagonists when they are French like Amelie, why can’t we learn to love them when they are American?

Magically Real HQ has faith that we can do these things!

Seen as fairy-tales, both the novel and the film do their job.  Plus, they do the thing we want fairy-tales to do.  They affirm the possibility of meaningful connection, pleasure, and fulfillment.  Even if we are just regular Americans living in a small town.

In particular if we are girls and women.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Here’s wishing you a wonderful, quirky holiday filled with connection, merriment, and love.

Just watch out for axes.

Los Angeles Times Review of Invisible Sign

New York Times Review of Invisible Sign

2 thoughts on “Of daughters, dads, and axes: An Invisible Sign, Dir. Marilyn Agrelo

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