Andrew Dosunmu’s latest film confronts the lack of humanity toward the elderly and displaced in New York City

Nataal favourite Andrew Dosumnu returns with a moving tour de force for his third feature film Where Is Kyra? The director debuted the work to resounding acclaim at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and this month has seen its official release.

The movie stars Michelle Pfeiffer in the title role. Kyra is a born and bred New Yorker who we meet middle-aged, divorced and out of work. Forced to move back in with her ailing mother, Kyra struggles with her diminished position in life. She finds solace in an affair with her neighbour Doug (played by Kiefer Sutherland), who is in a similarly despondent situation and struggles with alcoholism, but after her mother dies, Kyra’s ever-diminishing options prove devastating.

“Sadly women of a certain age become expendable in America once they no longer fit into the categories of sexy, or desirable, or useful to men in some way,” says Dosunmu. “Kyra and her mother are all each other have left. Without Kyra, her mother would have most likely died alone in her apartment. Without her mother, Kyra may have much sooner been destitute, perhaps homeless. There is so much relevance in this story, and it is such a common tale.”

Dosunmu shaped the story with writer Darci Picoult as a way to comment upon the all-too harsh realities of living on the margins of society in his own adopted home of New York. This is a theme that runs through both of his previous films, 2011’s Restless City starring Nataal founder Alassane Sy, and 2013’s Mother of George, and continues in a different light in this latest offering. “New York City is always a character in my stories. The city means something and reacts to every character in a different way, depending on their personal circumstances,” he explains.

“It is not a city for the lonely, or the poor. It can be hostile and inhospitable. The same city that welcomes new energy can become cold and unwelcoming if your life turns. In this film, I wanted to explore how life can take us down unexpected paths, even with the best intentions. I am intrigued and saddened by the women I see homeless in New York and a lot of that somewhat morbid fascination inspired the story.”

Thanks to his close collaboration with cinematographer Bradford Young (Mother of George, Arrival, Selma), the visual mood of Dosunmu’s film is as shadowy and foreboding as Kyra’s inner state of mind. Cloaked in darkness, Pfeiffer’s performance has been called “remarkable” (Screen International) and “soul searching” (Variety) and completely belies her usually glamorous movie star status. By the end of the film we’re left wondering how close we all could be to isolation and disenfranchised invisibility that a few miss steps could bring.

Raised in Nigeria, Dosunmu is renowned as a photographer, filmmaker and creative director. His images have featured in Vogue, GQ, Clam, i-D, The Fader and Interview and he’s shot for Puma, Converse and Nike. He has also directed music videos for the likes of Tracy Chapman, Isaac Hayes, Wyclef Jean and Kelis, and he exhibited with Nataal at AKAA Art Fair in Paris in 2016.

Published on 17/04/2018