Complex relationships between mothers and daughters are far from a new concept, whether the strain comes from abandonment, beliefs, or trauma. In My Only Wish, an Incluvie Film Festival submission, Brenda Gutierrez’s take on her character’s maternal divide comes in the form of abandonment. Young Ashley (Giselle Gutierrez) appears to have been left with her grandmother Beatriz (Maria Autran) and is ignored by her mother, who doesn’t even attempt to show up on her birthday.
The depth of emotion that Gutierrez is able to encompass in the span of only five minutes with a short and simple screenplay is both impressive and effective. Main actress Giselle Gutierrez is a young talent deserving of the most praise for her convincing portrayal of Ashley, whose frustration over her mother’s absence mounts quickly to a point early in the film in which she decides to go find her on her own. The act is one of desperation — believably acted, whether it be intuitively or intentionally directed as such, and her determination is felt explicitly through the screen.
As director and writer, Brenda Gutierrez is equally praiseworthy. The authenticity of the script, combined with Giselle’s performance, hits right to the core of anyone who has experienced the pain of a metaphorical rift between mother and daughter. Most notable, aside from the message delivered by the narrative, is the near flawless direction of the young actress.
The highly intuitive blocking and framing of certain scenes was likely aided in part by cinematographer Michael Jarrett, making for a very moving film. The framing of Beatriz’s phone calls to Ashley’s mother, the angling as Gutierrez ran away to her mother’s, the many different shots we see of Ashley playing with her toys alone at the park, the private capturing of Ashley’s contentment before she leaves…these are small details flawlessly integrated that do not go unnoticed.
In any film, and especially a short film such as this, every single second counts; in My Only Wish, certainly each second feels like a necessary part of telling the story. We’re on Ashley’s journey, from the moments we see her with her adoring grandmother, to the heartbreaking chastising from her mother who appears to be intentionally represented off-screen, (an artistic choice I personally adore). It gradually shows Ashley finding happiness through the simplicity of herself, to the final shot of Ashley’s bittersweet letter to her mother — the image with which Gutierrez chooses to leave the viewer.
The heartbreak of Ashley being forced to learn such a hard lesson so young is bittersweet. While she unfortunately comes to understand that her mother is not perfect and may not always be there for her, it also leads her to find contentment and fulfillment within herself, and to find and accept love and support from others — an inspiring message for the viewer to consider.