Jamie Skinner reviews Dionne Edwards latest film, Pretty Red Dress, read below for more.

Cert - 15, Run-time - 1 hour 50 minutes, Director - Dionne Edwards

After being released from prison, Travis (Natey Jones) explores his identity through secretly wearing a dress his partner (Alexandra Burke) buys for an audition.

There’s a simplistic nature to the way in which Pretty Red Dress presents its themes and narrative. Perhaps it’s down to the lightness of tone captured by feature debut writer-director Dionne Edwards and just what she focuses on in the life of recently-released-from-prison Travis (Natey Jones). As he explores his identity and transvestitism the film is less about the reactions to this and more about himself.

“I’m a bit crazy” he explains to his partner Candice (a standout Alexandra Burke) “I express myself differently... by wearing women’s clothes. I just like being pretty sometimes... Maybe I’m just a bit different”. It’s a matter-of-fact point from a man who just wants to feel good in his own choice of clothing. Such moments are where the film gets across itself with ease, during the more stripped-back points. 

It’s a moment of explanation shortly after the early realisation as Travis dons the titular dress in the early stages of the film. It takes a while for this to settle as Travis’ personal connection as he looks at the shining red dress hanging in the wardrobe isn’t always felt, again perhaps down to the chosen focus of the film. His partner has purchased it to wear for a big audition for the lead role in the Tina Turner musical - allowing Burke to successfully belt out a number of Turner tunes throughout the process.

Music is core to lifting up a number of moments throughout the film. Perhaps most effective as Travis becomes more confident with his identity - taking his exploration from private depths to the public sphere. While, as mentioned, the film is simplistic when the soundtrack comes into effect the style rises; especially when Travis struts down the streets with growing confidence. The overall style benefitting from the light tone in which things are dealt with - and the occasional self-acknowledging humour which avoids feeling forced or derogatory.

Family dramas come into play every now and then - both Candice and daughter Kenisha’s (Temilola Olatunbosun) responses to Travis’ exploration of identity and their own personal fallings out in light of such events - but never quite fully lift off. It’s slightly bumpier ground as the film feels more comfortable travelling, and occasionally strutting, across its more comfortable, simplistic terrain. This especially being the case once the core themes and ideas are laid out and Travis is actually on his journey of growing confidence.

The structure, particularly a slight lack of ‘resolution’ within the brief closing stages, may have a couple of bumps along the way but there’s still a likable air about things. It keeps your engagement largely thanks to the tone with which the simple yet effectively told story is told with. Yes, the simplicity may occasionally cause some problems but for what it does do Pretty Red Dress does it rather well.                    

Jamie Skinner, Four stars ****