Eve’s Bayou - * * * 1/2*

Mysterious and alluring, Eve’s Bayou is a lyrical film taking the audience into a vivid world. With realistic characters, plenty of atmosphere, and an intelligent script, it’s a journey worth taking.

The story focuses on the Batiste family in Eve’s Bayou, Louisiana. The Batiste’s are respected members of society. Louis Batiste (Samuel L. Jackson) is a well liked doctor. Perhaps too well liked, for he apparently often cheats on his wife, Roz (Lynn Whitfield).

Louis and Roz have three children, and the film is told from the point of view of the middle child, the 10 year old Eve (Jurnee Smollett). She has an older sister, Cisely (Meagan Good), and a younger brother, Poe (Jake Smollett).

Eve has a special attachment with her father’s sister, Mozelle (Debbi Morgan). Mozelle is a psychic, who claims to be able to see anyone’s future but her own, a fact that has resulted in tragedy, as she has already lost three husbands. A voodoo priestess (Diahann Carroll) that Mozelle meets claims that she is cursed, and she believes it.

The priestess also has a warning for Roz, “watch your children”. This combined with a premonition by Mozelle causes a panic in the slightly superstitious Roz. She forbids her children from leaving the house that summer, unaware that the danger may come from a different source.

Director Kasi Lemmon, who also wrote the screenplay, displays a blossoming talent here. The story, told in flashback, weaves a complex web of differing points of view, fading memories, and hazy visions of the future. Yet, Lemmons never loses track of the threads, and creates a striking visual tapestry.

The story is well written, and the characters are well defined, with the detailed nuances that make them seem almost real. The dynamics of the Batiste family are particularly well recognized.

The performances are superb throughout. Jurnee Smollett in particular stands out as the child who makes a crucial choice during the summer. Samuel L. Jackson delivers yet another nuanced performance as the father figure who’s simultaneously a figure of love and hate.

With its limited release, Eve’s Bayou is likely to be overshadowed by many of the big films this holiday season, and it’s too bad. If you do happen to find it in a remote corner of your local movieplex, you should give it a shot.

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