13-year-old May is on her way to a singing competition, riding with her dad on a bit of a road trip.
But her dad has other ideas, and soon a pit stop turns into a detour that threatens May’s dreams and frays her already fragile relationship with her father.
Director Laurie Thomas has crafted a short drama that combines both the looseness of a road trip film and the intimacy of a chamber drama. The drama is quiet and understated, but the excellent performances hint at the conflicting pulls between the father-daughter duo.
There’s obvious love and even a sense of ease between the pair, but May’s disappointment that she can’t quite rely on her father figure to truly be there for her in the way she needs is palpable and quietly heart-rending, as is the film’s understated yet devastated conclusion.
Moody, saturated photography captures the humid, sun-soaked Florida landscape, lending their trip a dreamy feel. With vintage country music drifting in and out of the soundtrack, the film possesses the haunting feel of nostalgia and memory, even as it happens in the present. The viewer gets the sense that May is already experiencing her trip as a key turning point in her relationship and understanding of her father, something that will burn itself into her memory forever.
“Prima Donna” is a quiet, graceful, heartbreaking portrait of an epiphany in a young girl’s life, when she sees her father’s foibles and faults in sharp relief. Part of growing up and leaving childhood is coming to see parents as the deeply fallible human beings they are, but May’s coming-of-age proves particularly perilous, and comes at great cost.