Donna has been stuck in an abusive relationship for years, until she decides to forge a difficult path into a new, independent life alongside her kids.
Directed by: Jaret Martino.
Starring: Israel Acevedo, Kate Amundsen, James Aronson, Sandy Bainum, Steve Barkman, Anthony Belfiore, Evan Brubaker, Mikel Butler, Kiera Capitanio, Angelo Caporizzo Jr., Angelo Caporizzo, Anthony Coppola, James Cribbins, Catharine Daddario, Ellen B. Williams, Michon Vanas, Carla Valentine, Ryan Santiago, Devon Roth, Alexandra Rooney, Kristin Pilgreen, David Petrillo, Catherine Nastasi, Brittany Molnar, Jaret Martino, Bob Lloyd, Dina Laura, Sage Kirkpatrick, Frankie Justin, Alyssa Jayson, Shirley Huang, Najee Griffin, Isa Goldberg, Jackson Gill, Laura Frenzer, Lauren Francesca, Remington Ford, Anthony Ficco, Gianna Ferazi, Dennis Feitosa, Arsonval Faria, Al Dubinsky.
Country: United States.
Running time: 111 minutes.
The story told in Donna: Stronger than Pretty is not a new story.
It’s almost a shameful fact that as a society we are used to these anecdotes. Normalizing the predatory aspect of a relationship seems voluntary and sadly it’s not. We are just following advise and guidelines that progressed without scrutiny throughout history. That is one of many cliches that transpire in Donna: Stronger than Pretty without much reaction from the audience. And at the end, there’s nothing more essential to the struggle, than considering the small details. The glances and sudden moves of a monster that hasn’t realized its power.
Donna: Stronger than Pretty is a movie that doesn’t pretend much outside of its borders. It’s an indie retelling of the memoirs of a woman who got tired of something and acted, becoming a powerful example of resilience and inner strength. The film has signs of “based on a true story” written all over it and even concludes with a statement from the real Donna; without these it would just “another movie about a woman waking up to her circumstances”. At least that’s what I thought of at first. But Jaret Martino‘s biographic tale feels like the honest reminder that stories with happy endings are not always fairy tales.
Donna is a young woman who has a son and lives with her mother. One day she meets Nick, a charmer and good looking man who woos her in every possible way. He becomes the father figure for Donna’s son. Soon, he also becomes Donna’s husband and they start a family. As the family keeps growing, also does Nick’s abusive behavior and the absence from the household. He’s supposedly working on his business. Donna gets tired of all the lies and after a brutal attack, she decides to leave him for once and for all. This is when she becomes the prey of a system we know well: a single, independent woman who must act as a leader while her former husband keeps bashing her in a courtroom.
The film doesn’t suffer from the weight of a formula induced introduction. It steers away from the typical scenario in which justice is served, and everyone lives happily ever after. This “shift” plays well for Martino, as characters are not manipulated for the sake of a happy ending. Donna is very down to earth, and depends solely on the relationship that matters most of all: the one she tries to engage with her kids. An example is a beautiful scene in which she’s just a mom and nothing else.
There’s an idea that Martino identifies with and he proudly uses it until the end. This is a true story, one he knows well as he was directly affected by the real events. And ending Donna: Stronger than Pretty with this meta declaration of “overcoming fear” is exactly what makes his movie a must watch. This subgenre in drama doesn’t have the best adaptations, but sometimes a movie doesn’t have to be great. It just has to be important. Donna: Stronger than Pretty is one of those.