THE BITTER BETTER
We are telling this story in hopes that we can do our part to shape a future in which identifying someone by their gender and/or sexual preference will be secondary to identifying them simply as a human being. In which we celebrate a person by their actions, their humanity and compassion, by their drive and dreams, by how they love, to value the earnestness of their passion and not shame them for lusting and desiring. But this story is also a warning against indifference, and a reminder stay involved in the lives of your friends and loved ones. Depression, anxiety, OCD, all of which are addressed in our film, can severely affect a person’s quality of life, and all too often, for children in the midst of pubescence, their symptoms are written off as typical side-effects of being a teenager, or they themselves are too inexperienced or embarrassed to admit they are struggling. Of these youths, a large number of them identify, though may be too fearful to say so, as LGBTQ. That fear, and the inability to speak up, inevitably leads to unhealthy expressions of their pain, which may cause harm to themselves or others, and will, in many instances, be accompanied by one or several of the above mentioned disorders. And unlike our film, there won’t be a ghost in their room to save them at their lowest point. We want this film to serve as a beacon, if even only a small one, to bring families closer together, to help those that struggle to speak, and those that struggle to ask, to initiate open and compassionate dialogue with one another.
THE BITTER BETTER is an LGBTQ, romance drama. Pete, a seventeen year old, queer girl, recently having moved to North Carolina, struggles to find acceptance both from her new peers, specifically, a precocious sophomore, Cheyenne, who while born and raised in a sheltered, small-town community, is always up for an adventure, and from her own father, who, though noble and civic-minded, traveling from town to town providing local businesses with strategies for developing green jobs, is not quite as enthusiastic about cultivating his relationship with Pete.
As a long brewing depression stirs within her, Pete discovers there is a ghost in her room, visible only in the reflection of mirrors. Quickly realizing it is anything but malicious, she determinedly begins to unravel the mystery of the ghost’s presence and circumstance. Through investigation of a local non-profit youth center, she finds the first of several clues that will lead her to finding out the ghost’s identity. And it is perhaps the most important of all the clues, the ghost’s name: Philowen. Though Philowen cannot speak, he can still communicate emotionally, and it is those cues that lead Pete onward, toward fleshing out this lonely ghost’s story. A picture signed by Philowen and another, Lyle, in conjunction with Pete discovering the non-profit’s CEO was formerly a college volunteer of the same institution in the 1980’s, brings back to life the story of Philowen’s first love. Lyle, a city boy, was also a frequent visitor of the center, and it was there that he recognized Philowen as a kindred spirit, and there, in each other’s company, that they both, for the first time, felt truly safe. Their relationship, however, quickly set off alarms, and was reported to Philowen’s father, who, blaming the center, immediately discontinued taking his son there. Heart-broken, Philowen fled from him, and in a panic, took the remainder of his prescribed medication, overdosing as he hid from his father in what eighteen years later would be the house Pete moves into.
As Pete continues to uncover the whole of the love story from 1987, she herself begins to feel a kinship toward Philowen, and he to her. Still, her excess use of marijuana and lack of much needed attention from her parents continues to wear on her psyche, and a vicious confrontation with her step-mother drives her over the edge. In a moment of hopelessness, Pete takes her own life. Philowen, witness to her suicide, seizes the opportunity, both to help himself and save Pete. Inhabiting her lifeless body, Philowen is able to transport himself across the street to the youth center, where he has hoped, for all his many solitary and naive years, to be reunited with his first true friend and only love, Lyle. The trail of blood leading from Pete’s home to the center cues a frenzied search by her step-mother and Cheyenne, who find her just in time. When she comes to under the fluorescent glare of hospital lights, she struggles to recall the events of the night prior. But upon returning home and noticing Philowen no longer in her room, she remembers, and races, at her substantially weakened pace, to the center. But her attempts to relocate Philowen are hopeless, and she resigns herself to never knowing what became of him.
Waiting for her outside is Cheyenne, who, noticing how distraught Pete appears, invites her over to her house. It is there, in Cheyenne’s room, her room since birth, that Pete is able to let go of her worries, falling in love both with Cheyenne’s gentle and open spirit and with the permanence and richness of her home, her room, her history. Cheyenne gives her a handkerchief, a part of her life, and together they sit, quiet and at ease.
Soon afterward, Pete and her family are packed up and preparing for their next move. Though resigned and perhaps even slightly fearful of what lies ahead, she is confident and braver thanks to Philowen and Cheyenne. She sings proudly to herself in the back of the car as she and her family pull away, leaving behind the center, another home, another life.
The intent of this film is to present relatively challenging subject matter (i.e. teen mental disorders, suicide, fear of coming out) in a manner in which families and friends will be comfortable to discuss with one another. The intent is also for the film to serve as a gateway for us, the filmmakers, to attract investors and future collaborators for subsequent projects.
The Bitter Better will be making its rounds in the 2017 festival circuit, and aims to ultimately find its home on one or several of the current online media streaming platforms, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Seed&Spark provides a terrific opportunity to cultivate such a future, and we hope that in partnership with the company, it will indeed be so. As such a crucial part of the film’s purpose is to promote relevant and open dialogue within communities, we want the way in which we release and distribute our film to be just as relevant and timely.
We intend to have a Spring of 2016 premier, local, in Charlotte, NC, for the city and people that have inspired us and continue to do so as we bring our film to life. In further promoting that spirit of camaraderie, we intend to donate ten percent of what we raise to Time Out Youth, the local LBGTQ Youth Center.