[N.B. Daughter of God has not yet been released. I was generously given access to the film through one of its producers. If you would like a chance to see it, and I believe it’s worth seeing, then please sign this petition!]
A few weeks ago, I published a scathing review of the film Exposed. I was not the only one who despised the film: the director himself hated it so much that he sued to have his name removed from the credits.
If the film were his baby, then the director (Gee Malik Linton) disowned it. Is this fair to the poor bastard? No, because the real mothers in this family drama are the studios. The studio kidnapped Linton’s baby, changed its name (from Daughter of God to Exposed) and edited it until not even its own father would recognize it.
What was meant to be an intimate film exploring sensitive issues became a confused police drama built around a confused Keanu Reeves in a ‘thriller’ as thrilling as water flavoured Jell-o.
So, then, how does Daughter of God (director’s cut) compare to its evil twin?
It is better. Not just better, far better.
What fascinates me as a cinema buff is how an additional eighteen minutes of film can so completely transform a movie. If Exposed and Daughter of God are twins, they are the sort of identical twins one could distinguish between after having spent only a few moments in their presence. They look similar on the surface, but are diametrically opposed.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the films is the screen presence of Ana de Armas. This up-and-coming Cuban actress (Knock Knock – in which she also shared the screen with Keanu Reeves) plays Isabel de la Cruz, a naïve, sweet, vulnerable young woman struggling to maintain her devout optimism in the face of great trauma. When Isabel is made to be the central character (as opposed to Keanu Reeves’s Scotty Galban in Exposed), the film is placed on de Armas’s shoulders. Fortunately, her treatment of Isabel is infused with such restraint and compassion that the viewer can’t help but become an equal partner in her well-being.
This connection between the viewer and Isabel is critical to Daughter’s success, because when we care about Isabel we commit to her happiness and become complicit in her clouded perceptions. The alternate world Isabel inhabits is a coping mechanism that allows her to maintain her positive outlook and Armas’s talent – as well as Linton’s directing – allows us to share Isabel’s space. We perceive what she perceives and, as we want her to be safe, we wrap ourselves in her illusions as well… until the end, when those illusions unravel.
The directing is yet another critical detail that makes Daughter of God a solid film. Whereas Exposed glossed over the technical expertise in the filmmaking, Daughter of God exposes Gee Malik Linton’s affection and attention to his craft. Linton demonstrates a keen eye for cinematography (the shot of Isabel at her husband’s coffin, his use of signs in the background-see below), a subtle use of close-ups, and a deft aptitude for lighting. The way some characters are lit, or the lack of light in other scenes, is so subtle, the viewer doesn’t notice their perceptions being altered.
Unfortunately, these carefully crafted elements are lost in the hodgepodge of the studio version, where a forced edit to turn the movie into a detective story is the cinematographic equivalent of making a puzzle piece fit into another when it obviously doesn’t. The finished product of Exposed looks incomplete and odd, whereas Daughter of God is resplendent in its sincerity.
- WTF!?’s: 2 bastards
- When to Follow: Accept no substitute! Avoid Exposed at all costs and wait for Daughter of God. If you have the choice between Daughter of God and Exposed, choose Daughter of God. If you have the choice between Exposed and nothing, choose nothing.
- Where’s This Found: Daughter of God is not a perfect movie. There is an underdeveloped intrigue between Detective Galban and his son, and the folk tale of Señor Salazar is not substantial enough to serve as the framing device Linton uses it as, but there is so much here that works perfectly. Linton directs his first feature film with a skill that belies his experience, and Ana de Armas sets herself up as an actress to watch as American cinema moves to include more and more Latino culture. The poetry of the movie is captivating and the story is fun to decipher for anyone with a little attention and patience. Out of a possible 10, I have 8 F’s to give
- What To Feedback: Sign the petition to have the film released!
Left Over Photos
The following screen captures are from scenes that were not included in the Lionsgate edit.
The following are examples of how well Linton uses signs to convey his message
What to Follow Up
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