Last night saw a stellar premiere at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival as the world premiere of dark drama-thriller ‘The G’ was attended by lead actress Dale Dickey (‘Winter’s Bone’, ‘Breaking Bad’) and director Karl R Hearne.
Ann Hunter, or G, played by the great Dale Dickey, is doing a terrible job caring for her ill husband. Chain-smoking and drinking bottle after bottle of vodka each evening, she struggles to adjust to her new role as caregiver. One day, loud knocks jar the couple awake – their court-appointed guardians, whom they’ve never met, have come to move them to a nursing home. The officials claim the couple’s home to liquidate their assets, viewing the elderly as merely business. Now homeless, the two are transferred to a prison-like facility with other unlucky seniors.
It seems the crooked guardians caught wind of Anne’s sizeable inheritance. She refuses to reveal the whereabouts, even as they beat her husband Chip before her eyes. But they’ve provoked the wrong granny. Anne realises her only escape is to bare her claws, with help from her loyal granddaughter.
The film’s protagonist is inspired by Director Karl R. Hearne’s own strict, domineering grandmother, who would leave demanding notes signed with just the letter ‘G’. “Everyone was scared of her, but I was her favorite grandchild – we had a special bond, just like Emma (Romane Denis) with G in the film,” he explains. This ‘winter noir’ uses a bleak, snowy backdrop to support its dark tone. Though playing a tough cookie etched by hardship, star Dickey is quite different in real life – caring, open and non-confrontational. Yet she deftly inhabits this multidimensional woman with flaws and virtues. As G, she rejects the notion that seniors fade from society. Indeed, performances like hers are rarely seen, moving seamlessly between drama and grit.
The film establishes its tense atmosphere immediately, opening on two thuggish hitmen burying a body while trading morbid jokes. Writer-director Hearne seemingly relishes thriller tropes – bald heavies in big boots versus Dickey’s hardcore grandma. She’s all-in – drinking to oblivion, loving to the grave, and battling ruthlessly. Quiet cinematic touches augment the gloom: messy sets, dark makeup, Anne’s evolving wardrobe. Allegorical details let viewers intuit deeper meanings.
In her second leading role, Dickey delivers a fierce, vengeful performance, leavened with tenderness for loved ones. Her changes register naturally yet powerfully. A brave intimate scene underscores the film’s message: the forgotten generation remains full of life. Tastefully shot, admittedly it was a vulnerable moment for the actress. “I was sixty one when we shot this film and I thought to myself “Really, is that the time when you are going to do nudity?”. But I spoke with Karl about this scene in detail and understood the importance of this scene so I’m glad I did it. It doesn’t go away as we age, you know,” says Dickie, “older people do have sex and that’s just the truth”. The intimate scene is there to underline yet again the message: the abandoned and forgotten generation have their own agency and can be full of lives that we shouldn’t dismiss of overlook.
Though fictional, the film highlights real issues around elder care and rights. Dickey drew on her own caregiving experience, noting how officials overlook seniors’ voices: “I have been a carer for both of my parents and I know from my personal experience how hard it is to deal with officials and with hospices. It’s not uncommon that people would just speak at elderly, not with.” Such situations happen daily across America. “There are many scams aimed at elderly,” explains Karl, “but the ones that are not illegal I find the most scary. In states like Nevada for example, the legal guardian doesn’t even have to see the judge but the decision can be taken by a clerk. All rights and freedoms can be signed off to some stranger with one signature.” This message has united the cast as Romane Denis who plays the granddaughter could also relate to it: “My mother works in a care home and while no such injustices take place at her work, I came to realise how much there is to learn from elderly people who want to share their experience and their life stories waiting nothing in return. It is very sad that we don’t have time to listen and learn from those stories.”
This film will grip you. It lures you in as a drama before swiftly becoming a thriller combining money, power and violence. See this movie for Dickey’s outstanding work and its empathetic exploration of later life’s challenges and triumphs. The Dickey – Denis duo is great to watch as two strong women of different generations look out for each other on and off screen.