Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old.
1997 gothic drama starring Jurnee Smollett
, Samuel L. Jackson
, and Lynne Whitfield
. In 1962, Eve Batiste (Smollett), named for the founder of their hometown, is the middle child in one of Louisiana's most sophisticated and prosperous families. Her sister, Cisely, is 14 and her brother, Poe, is 9. Her father, Louis (Jackson), is a doctor, and her mother, Roz (Whitfield), minds the family. One night during a party, Eve catches her father with another woman, Mrs. Moreaux.
Eve confides in her aunt Mozelle (Debbie Morgan), a sultry fortuneteller. The two are close due to a shared sense of the supernatural. And as Mozelle struggles with her own Cartwright Curse
dilemma, the family is in for a summer that changes their lives forever. The movie was directed and written by Kasi Lemmons, and produced by Samuel L. Jackson.
- Ambiguous Situation: The central plot of the movie. Did Cisely kiss Louis, or did he abuse her? Conflicting accounts are given by those involved and the movie never gives a definitive answer either way. In the director's cut, there is an additional character who sees what happens, but he's mute, so no one else will ever know.
- But Not Too Black: Justified, as the movie is about Creole society in 1960s Louisiana. The majority of the actors and extras are mixed.
- Cartwright Curse: Mozelle kind of has this problem.
- Fainting Seer: Mozelle passes out after having a vision and interpreting it as one of the kids getting hit by a car. Turns out Eve was falling because Louis pushed her out of the way of a gun before getting shot to death, and a train just so happened to be going by at the time
- Flat Earth Atheist: Louis and Cisely remain skeptical of Mozelle's precognition, despite her proven track record.
- Gossipy Hens: A few women at the Batistes' party in the beginning. They are even the rare variety that provides exposition, revealing to the audience that Mrs. Moreaux sleeps around and that Louis is the best colored doctor in Louisiana.
- Gratuitous Creole: Almost everyone, even the kids, liberally sprinkle Creole French into their speech.
- Heroic BSOD: Mozelle after Elzora spitefully tells her that her next husband will die like the other three.
- Hollywood Voodoo: Generally averted. Hoodoo is accurately portrayed, but is referred to as Voodoo (albeit by a little girl who probably doesn't understand the differences).
- Hot Witch: Mozelle.
- I Wished You Were Dead: Eve goes to a voodoo priestess to find a way to kill her father; soon after, he is shot by Mrs. Moreaux's husband.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: While Mozelle, Eve, and Elzora have genuine precognitive ability, whether or not their magic works beyond that is not clearly explained.
- Middle Child Syndrome: How Eve feels compared to Cisely and Poe.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: How Mozelle's secret lover dealt with her second husband.
- Never Trust a Trailer: One of the promo spots for the movie includes a woman telling Eve, "If you tell anyone, I swear I'll do you harm." It sounded like one of Louis' extramarital conquests seriously threatening Eve if she told anyone about it, though in reality it was her aunt, most likely speaking in hyperbole.
- No Periods, Period: Averted. Cisely starts her menstrual period during the movie.
- And a VERY big deal is made of it, including showing her bloody underwear.
- Parental Incest Maybe.
- Pet the Dog: Mozelle's husband Harry's relationship with Eve.
- Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Louis sleeps with quite a few of his female patients while on house calls, to the point that women feign illness just to be alone with him.
Louis: Your lungs are as clear as a bell, Stevie. You're going to live.
Stevie: Can you give me something for...the pain?
Louis: Eve, go play outside. (Closes door) What pain is that, Stevie? (bom chicka wow-wow)
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Lynn Whitfield is the only actor in the cast who's actually from Louisiana (born and raised in Baton Rouge), but she's also the only one who neither has a strong (fake) accent nor speaks Creole.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted. Mozelle uses her powers to help people find missing loved ones.
- Scenery Porn: The eponymous bayou is almost a character itself.
- Show, Don't Tell: This rule is violated when Eve finds an undelivered letter written by Louis to Mozelle. According to the letter, the two had a heated argument where Mozelle accuses Louis of raping Cicely, and Louis wrote her the letter afterwards when he was calm enough to explain his side of the story. It would have been nice to see the argument, since the two siblings had next to no direct interaction in the movie.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Mozelle's second husband Maynard, as mentioned above, stands up for his cheating wife when her lover comes knocking, and gets shot to death for his trouble.
- Southern Gothic
- Stepford Smiler: Roz had tried her best to keep everything looking happy and normal despite knowing full well her husband is a total whore. Much of the movie deals with her facade breaking.
- They're All Grown Up: The three Batiste children have matured quite nicely over the past 14 years.
- Wall Bang Her: How Louis and Mrs. Moreaux get it on in the carriage house.
- Wicked Witch: Elzora is a voodoo-flavored one. She and Mozelle have some unexplained bad blood, and she likes scaring children for laughs.
- Widow Witch: Mozelle, who has gone through three husbands at the start of the movie.
- Unreliable Narrator: the movie's most pivotal scene hinges on the fact that neither Louis nor Cisely remember exactly what happened the night their unhealthily-close relationship went too far.
- Your Cheating Heart: Louis and Mozelle. She comments a couple times that she and her brother are alike in many ways, only she doesn't have any children to catch her.