Writer and Director Todd Verow’s unique new art cinema feature This Side of Heaven, is a twisted story of an aging trans woman grasping at straws when it seems the whole world is against her.
V, played by Philly Abe, is living in rent-controlled housing in New York City. Desperate to hold on to her apartment, V finds herself locked in an unending battle against her landlord, Shawnith (Jayne Nicoletti). The harder Shawnith tries to push V out of her apartment, the harder V holds on, refusing to move out or cooperate with eviction notices.
Somewhat agoraphobic from her fear of losing her apartment, V spends all of her time locked up indoors. Aside from what she can see from her window, V’s few interactions with the world outside include her landlord, her neighbor Alex (Penny Arcade), and a string of delivery boys who supply her with groceries and other essentials. Sadly, most of V’s visitors only wish to steal from her or take advantage of her in one way or another. Alex, who appears friendly with V, is truly only motivated by a fight against the process of gentrification and seeking to get V out in the streets in protest.
Christian, one of the delivery boys, sees the beauty in V and decides to be friends with her rather than robbing her like many others before. Seeing Christian as a young source of happiness as well as someone to inherit her rent-controlled apartment (not to mention, carry on her legacy), V convinces Christian to move in with her. Shawnith, however, resorts to much more devious methods to evict V from her home and open the apartment up to new renters and higher rates.
Shot entirely in black and white, Verow’s film carries an interesting film noir feel to it. V is the unfortunate victim of circumstance, locked in an ever-present battle with the villainous Shawnith. A string of sexually motivated young men float in and out of V’s life until Christian arrives – the unexpected femme fatale, or male fatale as it were.
Low-key, gritty lighting presents a complex scene that can only be achieved through true black and white cinematography (unlike modern digital methods of desaturation.) Verow’s shots play in the space between German Expressionism and French New Wave, creating a stunning image with a disturbed subject. A flawed hero, the audience can’t help but feel sorry for V. At times it’s rather hard to watch her struggle, but in his signature style, Verow reminds us that desperation is never pretty.
Read our interview with Todd Verow
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Bangor Films