WTF: Daughter of God (2016)

Daughter of God 01 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Daughter of God 01 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Isabel in a scene that did not make the Lionsgate edit

[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.

Daughter of God 03 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Isabel’s father in a scene that did not make the Lionsgate edit

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.

Daughter of God 04 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Isabel and Elisa in a scene that did not make the Lionsgate edit

Perhaps the most significant difference between the films is the screen presence of Ana de Armas. This up-and-coming Cuban actress (Knock Knockin 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.

Daughter of God 05 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Isabel in a scene that did not make the Lionsgate edit
Daughter of God 02 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Gee Malik Linton on the set

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.

Tally Ho’

  • 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

8 Fs

Left Over Photos

The following screen captures are from scenes that were not included in the Lionsgate edit.

Daughter of God 06 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Click on the photo to access an analysis of the symbols in Daughter of God

 

Daughter of God 07 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Isabel and Elisa paint their in-laws’ town house as a wedding gift

 

Daughter of God 08 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Isabel’s father in a hallucination she has

 

Daughter of God 09 (Saint Pauly WTF)
Isabel’s sister-in-law’s wedding, where Isabel is shunned

The following are examples of how well Linton uses signs to convey his message

Daughter of God 10 (Saint Pauly WTF)
A subtle reminder for Isabel to call if she has problems

 

Daughter of God 11 (Saint Pauly WTF)
A subtle reminder that Catholics cannot take birth control – and Isabel could use some

 

Daughter of God 12 (Saint Pauly WTF)
When all of the pieces start to fall together, Linton instructs us to assemble the pieces

What to Follow Up

Exposed 40 poster 2 (WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly)

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6 thoughts on “WTF: Daughter of God (2016)

  1. Hi Pauly,

    I’ve shared both of your reviews on my fansite http://www.anadearmas.net a website to support the cuban actress career.

    Would love to have access to the Daughter of God, which by your review seems much more interesting and worth seeing than Exposed, as it is very lack of content and ‘doesn’t make much sense’, cannot put it into better words as I’ve been really excited about the movie and thought Ana was one of the main characters but even though she seems to be the main one, there is lack of consistence on the full movie. One thing I never understood is Exposure being promoted with photographs that were actually in the Daughter of God, and never appeared on Exposed. A lot of pictures were shared by Lionsgate and never appeared on Exposure (like Ana on the phone with the black and white coat, or Ana holding a paiting in a blue dress).

    Looking forward for a talk with you!!

    Best regards,
    Ana

    Like

    1. Hello Ana!

      Thanks for sharing the links on your website. I’m glad you liked my reviews and I agree that Daughter of God is a much better film than Exposed. Ana de Armas’s performance is the centre of the film and she really shines.

      I’ve passed along your message and your email address to my contact for the film. I don’t know what he’ll do with it but I hope you get the opportunity to see the original one day!

      WTF Ana (Watch The Film!),

      Saint Pauly

      Like

  2. Hiya Saint Pauly, great review 🙂 This was a film I was quite excited about because I didn’t exactly know what it was about and then I forgot about it and then I remembered it, headed to imdb only to see it destroyed. Seriously a shame to see someone’s thought out work slashed to pieces because of the assumption it wasn’t going to sit well with the audience. Is there any place I can purchase the director’s cut version of Daughter of God?

    Thanks for writing the review 🙂

    Like

    1. Hallo Nudrath!

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I agree with you on the deception the director must feel over turning over a heartfelt project over to a studio, only to see it bastardized. I’m afraid there’s no place where the original version can be found. Your best chance at seeing it is to sign the petition at Change.org and hope for the best!

      Thanks once again and please visit again…and often! 🙂

      WTF!? Nudrath (Watch The Film),

      Saint Pauly

      Like

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