Queer films are rife with coming of age stories, but writer-director Stephen Cone’s Princess Cyd offers a more than poignant and realistic glimpse into what that experience is like in today’s day and age. When 16-year-old Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) begins to clash with her father, she’s shipped off to Chicago where her deceased mother’s sister spends her days. Cyd’s arrival shakes things up for her aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence) who lives a quiet, secluded life as an author and teacher. It’s apparent straight away that the two are torn from different cloths, with one reveling in academia and spirituality and the other finding her way in a world that’s still unclear and uncertain.
Cone uses this unlikely pairing to talk about what it means to find yourself, your happiness and sense of belonging in a society that’s desperate to choose your fate for you. The two main characters, Cyd and Miranda, each choose paths less frequently traveled and neither the screenplay nor the camera judge these women for it.
Cyd, still in high school and still edging toward maturity, initially finds Miranda’s life a bit too vanilla for her tastes. Where Miranda enjoys a good book, Cyd would rather go on adventures. And where Cyd might find pleasure in sex with men and women, Miranda is perfectly satisfied in her belief in a higher power. Over the course of the film, the two come to love and understand one another, just as the audience is called to love and understand them for what each brings to the table. Both characters are kind-hearted and good-intentioned, leaving little room for the audience to judge their choices, beliefs, or lifestyles. It’s certainly an interesting take on a queer film, one that we don’t see as often as we’d probably like. But it’s a genuinely good take.
There’s a lot of good in Princess Cyd, actually. The performances are as you’d expect for a film of this nature: tender, nuanced, and ultimately, very real. Both Pinnick and Spence offer layered interpretations of very human characters. Never at any point in the film are you forced to suspend your disbelief to find sympathy with these characters, and that’s a true testament to Cone’s writing and the cast’s performance.
Something unusual happens about midway through the film when Spence’s Miranda has a soiree at her home. A whole cast of secondary and tertiary characters come into the fold. They’re from all walks, all cultures, all races. Surprisingly, each one has a distinct name and personality attached to them—a clear sign that Cone was set on crafting a world as real and as human as the audience’s day-to-day lives. You feel as if you’re right there in the heart of action; you engage with these characters and get to know them, even for the brief moments they appear on screen. A film highlight, for sure!
And then there’s the relationship between Cyd and Katie (Malic White) which covers all the teen-queer bases: awkward, fun, and exploratory. The two come together in a perfectly natural way—no Hollywood-manufactured kismet going on here at all. It’s pure attraction from the outset, though a bit tentative at first. The two explore each other’s personalities, home lives, and bodies without shame or reserve. Neither raises questions of sexuality; they know quite simply that they’re fond of one another and that’s enough for them.
Overall, Princess Cyd is a coming of age film that’s true to its time. In the relationship between Cyd and Miranda, we see that we can coexist no matter how different we think we might be. And when exploring what tenderness exists between Cyd and Katie, we understand that happiness and acceptance come to us in many forms, even in unexpected ones.
Watch the trailer for Princess Cyd below!