(Written by Intern, Isabella Foley)
Year of the Fox is an authentic representation of what it means to be a young woman returning to a toxic and shallow hometown one has grown out of. The film follows Ivy Reid (Sarah Jeffery) coming of age, as she discovers her sexuality and deals with her adoptive parents’ nasty divorce. The two take out their anger on Ivy in ways that are subtle, but harmful; they consistently make snide remarks regarding Ivy’s weight and ice skating technique. Not only must Ivy endeavor to maintain her confidence in spite of this, but she must also find a way to balance her disparate lives in both Aspen and Seattle. Compelling performances tug at the audience’s heartstrings and leave a mark on those who watch Ivy’s world fall apart. Inspired by screenwriter Eliza Flug’s life in Colorado during its prime in the 90s, this piece flips the script on typical, beloved coming-of-age movies.
Flug makes sure to expose the abhorrent behavior among the wealthy in Aspen using Ivy’s experience as a lens. Ivy is forced to navigate the sleazy community where she grew up, and deal with undue pressure to conform. Once her mother, Paulene (Jane Adams), splits from her cheating father, Huxley (Jake Weber), she is left to form her own perspective on their choices. On top of this dilemma, one of the only constants in her life is live-in housekeeper Xiomi (Alfa Delfina), whom Ivy is forced to part with once moving primarily to Seattle. Ivy’s best friend, Layla (Lexi Simonsen), is also caught up in the twisted family drama. Huxley’s infidelity lies in an illicit relationship with Layla’s mother, which of course makes Ivy’s life all the more complicated. Despite all of this, she somehow handles obstacles with grace and elegance… or so it seems.
The experiences that Ivy faces at such a transformative age have lasting impacts on her road to adulthood. She still wants to believe that her dad is an upstanding man, and tries not to let her mother’s criticism influence her perspective and ravage their father-daughter bond. Ivy comes to realize that the dangers of power and lust have infested her life more than she previously perceived as a child. Seventeen years of ignorance and bliss have come to an end. From ingesting drugs at lavish parties to signing off rights to her father’s business “for her own good,” Ivy is swept into a storm of lies and deceit.
Director Megan Griffiths masterfully unmasks the truth behind the Reid family and those close to them. She perfectly crafts the protagonist as insecure, confused, and latching on to anyone that may help direct her path. Women everywhere can empathize with the burden of growing up too fast and feeling betrayed by childhood friendships. Becoming an adult is about facing the real world and balancing what is best for oneself with the needs of loved ones. Ivy learns this the hard way, and the impressionable character’s struggles are sincere and heartbreaking.
Cinematographer Sevdije Kastrati captures Ivy’s growth as she travels between Seattle and Aspen to uncover more secrets each time she returns home. Through stunning shots of the Western mountains and captivating close-ups, Kastrati illustrates the contrast between the beauty of Ivy’s past and the ugliness she must now confront. While the events at hand are dramatized, I can identify with her experiences of being stripped of her innocence. There is a rawness about Year of the Fox that stands out from others of its kind. The shift from the slow pace in the beginning to explosive moments towards the end showcases the life of a privileged child falling through the cracks.
Masculine power, body image issues, and female competitive spirit are prominent in each scene of the film. Comparison is a universal human experience whether in regard to physical looks, athletic abilities, or even success romantically. Ivy drowns under the weight of being second best to Layla, and never reaching the standards her parents expect of her. Instead of embracing the joys of adolescence, she is placed in the middle of her parent’s marital problems. Huxley’s empty promises and Paulene’s unhealthy coping mechanisms drastically influence Ivy’s outlook on society and her small part in it. Her father’s lack of parental guidance leads her into questionable relationships with men, such as an infatuation with a wealthy older partygoer who is established as the “fox.” The exploration of her sexuality is messy and complicated, especially in comparison to the ease with which her best friend garners male attention. Classic high school movie tropes are blended with scandal and status to create a moving piece on the reality of wealthy living.
Year of the Fox speaks to those who have turned hardships into renewal and never let go of hope, even when it seems impossible. Despite the shocking revelations and misfortunes that she must face, Ivy comes out the other side having matured in ways that may never have seemed possible before. Amongst the sea of heartache and turmoil, fragments of optimism and faith shine through at the closing.
Will Year of the Fox skate its way into your heart? Find out when it premieres at the Seattle International Film Festival on Saturday, May 13th.