Princess Cyd: a review and a love letter to Chicago

Princess Cyd: a review and a love letter to Chicago
Jessie Pinnick (Cyd).

There’s a lot of Chicago in filmmaker Stephen Cone’s newest film Princess Cyd now running at Gene Siskel Center (through today) and winner of the Chicago Award at this October’s Chicago International Film Festival.

Although Cone’s story easily could have been filmed somewhere else–and almost was–ultimately Chicago was selected.

Photographed by Cone with cinematology by Zoe White, the pair captured the essence of Chicago in the summertime (filmed September 2016) from from Hyde Park to Evanston to the lake–making Chicago the perfect backdrop for the coming-of-age tale.

Producer Grace Hahn was able to share with me some of the exact locations where the movie was filmed. Just in case you want to try to identify the locations for yourself while watching the movie, I will share them at the bottom of the post after putting up a spoiler alert.

Not only was Princess Cyd filmed in Chicago–it was populated with Chicago actors, as well its director and producer who live in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

princesscydcastcropped-1Chicago actors, pictured above from left to right: James Vincent Meredith (Anthony) who has been a Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member since 2007; Rebecca Spence (Miranda), who is a Chicago-based actor and a company member of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble; Jessie Pinnick (Cyd), who is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, currently living in Chicago and Malic White (Katie), is a Chicago-based performer, playwright and gender warrior, who has been an ensemble member at the Neo-Futurist Theater since 2012.

The story is set in and around Chicago, centered in the Ravenswood Gardens neighborhood, where 16-year-old Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) has decided to take a break from her South Carolina home and her depressive single father to spend part of the summer in Chicago with her maiden aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence), a well-known novelist.

Cyd, a soccer player and a jock, is navigating her sexuality and is very open about that and most everything else. Her aunt, is a bit uptight enjoying more serious pursuits, especially her books, academia and spirituality. 

Although the pair haven’t seen each other in years, they develop a close relationship with each other. Their honest, sometimes hurtful dialogue, helps them not only to better understand each other but to better understand themselves.

Rebecca Spence

Rebecca Spence

Although Cyd has a boyfriend back home, soon after she arrives in Chicago she goes for a run, stopping in at a coffee shop where she encounters the androgynous barista Katie (Malic White)–and sparks fly–bringing a new dimension and realization to Cyd as she explores her sexuality. 

Cone is sensitive to his characters and the contradictions and confusion of the ever-changing self letting the story unfold in the moment. He is able to beautifully reimagine and bring to the screen that time in adolescence when emotions emerge, and everything becomes more complicated.

The film explores not only the conflicting relationships that develop between Katie and Cyd but those between Cyd and her Aunt Miranda and between Miranda and her friend and colleague Anthony (James Vincent Meredith).

Although hinted at at the beginning of the film, the bloody incident about how Cyd lost her mother eight years earlier, is not revealed until later in the film adding yet another dimension to the story.

The movie offers timeless slices of life that speak to the present moment and to feelings and complications to which we all can relate.

SPOILER ALERT for Chicago locations

The main house in the film, typical of many in Ravenswood Gardens, is actually in the Irving Park area, just east of I90. Although Grace could not give the exact address, she said, “I can tell you that this beautiful home is very representative of the area and was such a lucky find for us.”

The coffee shop where Katie works and meets Cyd is a real coffee shop. It was formerly called ‘Eats & Sweets Cafe’, and is now known as ‘Maiden Voyage Cafe.’ It is on the corner of Montrose & Paulina. Grace explains, “This coffee shop is a favorite of mine, and in both Stephen’s and my neighborhood. They were quite welcoming and we had a great time shooting there.”

Katie’s apartment, that she shares with her brother, was a combination of locations. The interior of Katie’s apartment was filmed in Evanston, while the rooftop is in Lincoln Park.

The magnificent beach scenes were filmed at Montrose Beach. Grace said, “We had special hosts at The Dock at Montrose Beach, who made us very comfortable on (what you can’t tell from the film) was a bit of a rainy day!”

In general, Grace said, “we’re so lucky to work and film in this city. Innumerable smart, supportive, and art-loving humans on Northside Chicago & in Hyde Park supported and participated in this project, helping us craft a really accurate portrayal of summertime in Chicago.” 

Cone, who teaches at Northwestern University, draws on Chicago’s talented bench of working actors, populating his films with diversely talented performers who are nevertheless mostly unknown to national audiences. His work covers the spectrum of humanity from believers to non-believers, gays, straights, bisexuals and the undefined. The relatively young filmmaker (age 34) is known for being able to produce professional respected work includes Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (now available on Netflix) and The Wise Kids on a low budget. The budget for Princess Cyd came in at under $185K.

Princess Cyd  

3 Stars

Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., through November 9.

Subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email

If you would like to keep in touch with what’s happening in Chicago, like us on Facebook or subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email. To subscribe, type your email address in the box below and click the “create subscription” button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Filed under: Film

Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Meet The Blogger

    Carole Kuhrt Brewer

    Arts, entertainment and dining journalist..

  • Follow me on Twitter.

  • Recent posts

  • Categories

  • Advertisement: