CLOSER: Kiki Layne portrays Dandelion, a struggling Cincinnati singer-songwriter in a downward spiral, who meets guitarist Casey and joins a nomadic group of likeminded folks, on her way to finding her voice and herself. (Supplied Photo)

The 2024 Lighthouse International Film Festival’s closing film is “Dandelion,” directed by Nicole Riegel.

It is tough being a singer-songwriter or a band performing originals.

After all, gigs are hard to find. Bars are obviously a natural venue for musicians trying to get a start – it famously worked for The Beatles in Liverpool’s Cavern Club and Hamburg, Germany’s red-light district. But beware of doing too many originals because bar owners know their patrons want to hear hits, not unfamiliar songs. The Beatles knew that and even though they had perhaps the greatest songwriting team in the history of rock, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, they only sprinkled in their own songs for several years. It is easy to see why oh so many bands never advance beyond the cover stage.

Even then a performer or band needs to catch a break. Maybe it is finding a good manager, just as The Beatles hooked up with Brian Epstein. Of perhaps it is getting heard by a superstar who happens to stumble upon them and spreads the word. Even if you have a respectfully selling album or a Top 40 hit you still haven’t made the big time and could become a one-hit wonder.

“Dandelion,” which was an official selection at both the Sundance and SXSW festivals, explores that world. Here’s how folks from the LIFF described it:

“A struggling Cincinnati singer-songwriter in a downward spiral takes a last-ditch-effort gig at a motorcycle rally in South Dakota where she meets Casey, a guitarist who walked away from his dream long ago. They join a nomadic group of struggling musicians, the kindred spirits make music together and strike up a whirlwind romance. The experience moves Dandelion from a narrow view of success to a deeper appreciation of her artistic journey, and the discovery of her own artistic journey, and the discovery of a voice that is authentically her own. The film features a powerhouse performance by Kiki Layne, the star of ‘The Old Guard’ and ‘If Beagle Street Could Talk.’”

Brian Tallerico, reviewing the film for rogerebert.com, wrote Dandelion and Casey “alternate a growing romance with impressive songwriting – Riegel never loses sight of the creative spirit of Dandelion. A lesser filmmaker would have discarded that aspect for pure sexual chemistry, but creativity is an essential part of not just this dynamic but Dandelion’s entire being. Of course it helps a great deal that the excellent original music is written by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of (the indie rock/alternative rock/post-punk revival/art rock/folk rock band) The National.”

Tallerico continued, “Without spoiling anything, Dandelion has to find the creative courage within herself. Casey may have helped light the match for her fire to burn, but the brilliant screenwriting element of the back half of this movie is that Riegel never lets it become just another story of how a woman needs a man to inspire her. When Dandelion finally reaches a song that feels like it’s truly, finally, expressing her voice, it’s one of the most moving moments you’ll see in a film this year.”

“Dandelion” will be screened at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 9 at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies.  —R.M.



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