Pink Skies Ahead : It’s OK To Be Not OK
Pink Skies Ahead
Starring Jessica Barden, Marcia Gay Harden, Michael McKean, Rosa Salazar, Lewis Pullman
Directed by Kelly Oxford
Like life itself, this is an imperfect film. Its 20-year old protagonist is fatally fractured in her mind. Winona, played by the dazzlingly bright Jessica Barden, suffers from anxiety attacks .They could , and do, happen anywhere: while Jessica is sipping a smoothie or, try this for size, when her parents announce they are moving into a downsized apartment where there is no room for Winona.
This is the parents’ way of pushing Winona into self-dependence. But it backfires badly. The panic attack that follows is like a psychological Tsunami that threatens to blow Winona away.
Pink Skies Ahead is about coping with psychological stumbling-blocks. Many of us would recognize some of the mind-hurdles faced by Winona, for instance her aversion to any kind of change in her routine.
There is this wonderful subplot about Winona’s doctor who is actually her pediatrician, played with such bemused warmth and distant irony by wonderful Henry Winkler who lets Winona come for checkups because she has nowhere else to go to vent her anxieties.
Pink Skies is lit up with wonderful moments of agony and ecstasy. It is beautifully structured to highlight all of the young protagonist’s failings and feelings without making her seem like a victim. It’s a film that urges us to be empathetic to the mentally unwell, without launching into heated tirades.
Winona is constantly looking for trouble. She finds it in her boyfriend an upperclass semi-nerd named Ben, played with upperclass nerdiness by Lewis Pullman who is clean-cut scrubbed and shiny, quite the antithesis to Winona. There is a beautifully designed sequence where Winona meets Ben’s traumatized mother over tea and scowls.
Ever since she discovered that Ben’s father was gay, his mom had lost her mental balance.Such life-changing revelations are given a workaday treatment by a script that refuses to get hysterical with its heroine.
Kelly Oxford’s screenplay is like a series of silent screams. It secretes smothered cries of protest against a social hierarchy that boxes those who do not conform.This doesn’t mean the screenplay favours Winona’s wild ways. While she is busy having fun, the screenplay tries to find ways to deal with her impetuous insecurities. Winona barely escapes her own anxieties. She would rather be trapped in her darkness than lean on artificial light.
Pink Skies Ahead gains enormously from its willing and able cast.Jessica Barden a brighter more enlightened version of Alia Bhatt, is the discovery of 2021.