First-time feature filmmaker Wayne Roberts executes an extraordinary story about a young woman’s quest to have a better life while dealing with the continual harsh realities of her circumstances. With an all-star cast including Olivia Cooke, Jim Belushi, Mary Steenburgen, Chris Abbott, Chris Lowell, and Mireille Enos, the story comes to full life, delving deeply into the human psyche, relationships, and hope.
Wayne Roberts, Olivia Cooke, Mireille Enos, and Chris Lowell
Katie (Cooke) is a waitress and part-time prostitute in a desolate desert town, but she has dreams of one day escaping this life she leads. Her circumstances, to most, would seem overwhelming, as her boss (Steenburgen) verbalizes in a motherly and protective way, but Katie never loses her positive spirit and goal of leaving…until she meets and falls in love with Bruno (Abbott), a newcomer to town. Establishing a relationship in a small community filled with gossip and cruelty, is more difficult than she could have imagined. The consequences and challenges she must face and endure begin to smother her, and Katie’s emotional survival is at stake.
“People need to appreciate things more…life is so amazing,” says Katie even as we see her worthless mother take complete advantage of her and men doing the same. Your heart breaks as you see this young woman not only survive, but attempt to break free of the chains that hold her here. The spark of positivity is always shining…her goal of leaving always the focal point.
Relationships are complex and the story brings us deep within all that Katie experiences. She supports her mother who is more than physically capable of doing so. We see the disappointment in her face as she puts on the facade that everything is ok. Maybelle (Steenburgen) is wise, acting more like a mother than Katie will ever have, but again, Katie protects others from experiencing her atrocities. Surprisingly, although Katie’s father is missing in action, she prays each night to him, wanting him to be proud. The most unlikely man in her life, Bear (Belushi) is a “regular,” but is also a sweet father-figure to her, giving her guidance in life. This character opposition is unusual, but in its own way, very loving. The relationships that are most disturbing are with other males in town, from the teacher who “visits” to the young men who are brutal and harsh beyond words. There are scenes that will leave you speechless and take your breath away while tears stream down your face.
The ensemble cast expertly creates deep and realistic characters, some of whom you truly despise. Cooke’s performance is simply sensational. She develops a complex character so well that we feel as if we know her. We understand her reactions, her disappointments, and her actions. Even though we don’t approve of her choices, we are endeared to her personality and positive energy. Cooke creates a character we truly care about. She is one of the most promising young actors to hit Hollywood.
Belushi is one of the few actors that could portray “Bear.” He creates the kindness in a male character that the story needs for balance. The goodness he exudes, even though he is using Katie for sex, melts your heart. Enos portrays the epitome of a bad mom, but she too has depth and reasons for her situation. Enos conveys this expertly, allowing us to dislike her, yet understand her at the same time.
Lowell shines just as brightly as someone we immediately hate. We get a sense from him that he’s bad to the bone. His look, his body language, and his tone all create a truly despicable character as “Dirk.” Together, the entire cast tells this beautifully intimate story of life and desperation, but most importantly hope.
To know that this is Roberts first attempt at screenwriting and directing is truly shocking. The expert skill he exhibits in creating this heart-wrenching story that will strike a chord deep within you is simply astounding. The characters he creates are extraordinarily real and not only compliment the story, but complete it. Bringing the words that are written on the page to life, casting just the right actors, and then extracting the perfect performance from them is an arduous task, but Roberts confidently does so. His style of directing and communication, according to the cast during an interview, is unusual and allows the actors to give their best performances. (Check back to read and listen to the entire interview.)
“Katie Says Goodbye” takes us on a remarkable emotional journey of life, filled with hope and countered by reality. It’s a powerfully evocative story with outstanding performances, beautiful dialogue, and most importantly, a lasting effect of optimism.