Pennies for the Boatman
Directed by Niyi Coker
Had Benjamin Franklin watched this melodramatic film set in 1950s St. Louis, he might restate his famous quotation about fish and houseguests. Visitors like Camilla don't smell after three days — they reek within just three minutes. Camilla is a sharp-tongued, manipulative New Yorker who's moved back to her hometown of St. Louis for reasons that, initially, aren't entirely clear. Even more confounding? Her sister, Helen, greets her with open arms. The prodigal sister Camilla has yet to unpack her suitcase before she's bossing her sibling around and attempting to seduce her husband. And those are actually some of Camilla's more selfless acts in the movie. Offending everyone she meets and dredging up old family secrets, it doesn't take long for Camilla to nearly destroy her sister's family and humble seamstress shop. As Helen scrambles to clean up the messes left by her ungrateful houseguest, the drama — directed by Niyi Coker, a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis — gives birth to another life lesson. That's the one that says, "Whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger."