Emotionally gritty and tinged with the beauty of a drug infused dreamscape, MALORY & NICOLE is a momentary yet intimate look at the hope that comes with the dawn of a new day and the descent into darkness that comes with the night, speaking loudly through imagery of how quickly life turns on a dime and the truth that is masked by both.
Bill Malory has just been released from prison after serving 30 years. With a token release check in his pocket, a trash bag as a suitcase carrying a change of socks and underwear and a few personal items, Malory is alone. There was no one to meet him at the prison gate. No one to give him a ride or a hug or a handshake. And so he walks. To where, even he doesn’t know. After 30 years does he even have a home?
Hitchhiking on a stretch of empty highway, Malory sits to rest, seemingly taken with the rote mechanized spin of the vanes on a wind farm; undoubtedly analogous to his prison routine. You can almost hear him sighing, wondering in his mind’s eye, “Is this all my life will ever be?”. But, then his luck changes. A young woman stops to give him a ride. Heavily tattooed, flowing curly red hair, Nicole appears to be under the influence of something, and it’s not the Bill Withers “Lovely Day” song playing on the radio.
As MALORY & NICOLE appear to hit it off, and since Malory has nowhere to go, they drive to one of the no-tell motels along the highway. Although things start to heat up between the two and a beautiful night turns into another sunlit dawn with Malory feeling on top of the world, Nicole’s infusion of drugs into the mix seems to be taking the two down a dark twisted path, especially when tenderness turns anything but.
Lynn Sher embodies the essence of Nicole, easily slipping into the cliched hooker perception complete with tattoos, fishnet thigh highs, uneducated elocution and grammar and, of course, a never ending supply of cocaine and other drugs. But where Lynn Sher breaks the mold is by blending the trope with a kindness of heart and then jolting the senses with a shifting betrayal. Quite interesting to watch her execute this arc.
As Malory, Ronald Quigley is beyond likeable with more than a bit of unspoken self-loathing ass-kicking for being a screw-up in his youth. He makes you feel for Malory with both empathy and sympathy; his taciturn nature makes you want to know more, to understand. Quigley makes us want to see Malory start anew. Navigating the emotional waters, Quigley delivers a Malory that resonates with authenticity and humanity.
Written by Ronald Quigley and co-directed by Quigley and Adam Ward, the technical standout of MALORY & NICOLE comes from cinematographer Dwight Lay. Clearly having learned his craft well with decades of work as a gaffer, Lay uses light and shadow and color to paint some beauteous moments while maintaining story focus and emotional bandwidth. From the opening brightly lit wide lensed open highway and empty sky laced with a cinematic grit that mirrors the story and characters to bodies bathed in a rich neon blue reflection that only heightens the sensuality of the moment and the tenderness between the two principals, bookends Malory’s perfect first day. Stunning is a montage of layered imagery of drugs, Jack Daniels bottles, cigarette-butt laden ashtray set against a richly colored sunset superimposed upon the ever spinning vanes on the wind farm. A metaphoric standout. Camera for the most part stays tight on the two principals, MALORY & NICOLE, allowing facial expressiveness to command. Kudos also to Kevin O’Farrell’s work with the sound as little touches like hearing the gravel beneath Malory’s sad heavy walk only adds to the emotional palette.
MALORY & NICOLE may be a short film, but it’s definitely not short on story, performance and emotion.
Directed by Ronald Quigley and Adam Ward
Written by Ronald Quigley
Cast: Ronald Quigley and Lynn Sher