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Theresa is a Mother efilmcritic header

Richard Poe & Edie McClurg

Richard Poe & Edie McClurg

by Charles Tatum

“An almost perfect independent film”
5 stars


C. Fraser and Darren Press create a family affair in this very funny comedy/drama.

Theresa (C. Fraser Press) is an unsuccessful singer in New York City freshly evicted from her apartment with her three daughters. She drives back to her hometown, and stays with her parents Roy and Cloris (the excellent Richard Poe and Edie McClurg), and tries to find work in the small town. There is a family tragedy that haunts Theresa, and has never really been addressed by her parents. As her daughters try to fit in, and Roy and Cloris’ lives are disrupted, Theresa tries to balance responsibility and her rebellious attitude.

This is not one of those “I don’t need a man to stand on my own” stories. Theresa is, in fact, a mess. Her punk-inspired songs are atrocious. Her relationship with her parents is so strained, they don’t recognize their own granddaughters. She does finally get a job mowing lawns by under bidding the only local Jewish boy (Matthew Gumley), and is later hired by the boy’s clueless father to write a song for a bar mitzvah. Part of the charm of the film is that Theresa and her family are so flawed.

The cast is outstanding, across the board. The Press daughters are professional and turn in actual performances. McClurg and Poe have a great chemistry, and play the broad comic scenes (the hot tub parties) as well as the dramatic very well. C. Fraser Press wrote the screenplay, knows Theresa inside and out, and triumphs in the role. It’s a very fine line between sympathy and quirky, and Press walks that line well. I did not find any of the characters irritating, they all have a charm of their own- even the minor ones like the prostitutes hanging out in front of her apartment building, and the TV preacher/cook.

The Press’ direction and use of widescreen is lovely. The scenes of Theresa riding around on a child’s bike looking for work in the small town are nothing short of classic. Daughter Maggie’s (Schuyler Iona Press) forced friendship with the Jewish boy, Seth, is well written. The editing is quick for a story that isn’t all plot all the time, some of the best scenes are the interaction between Theresa and either her daughters or her parents.

The Press family does an incredible job in “Theresa Is a Mother”. One or two scenes don’t work, but as a whole, the film is funny and I liked all the characters. What more could I ask for? For more information, go to the Theresa Is a Mother official website: http://theresaisamother.com/.



3 Stars
Year Released: 2013
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 101 minutes

With debts piling up and no real job prospects on the horizon, former punk rocker, and single mother of three daughters, Theresa (C. Fraser Press), makes the most drastic choice she can: she moves her family back to the small town she grew up in, to live with her parents. And frankly, while Mom, Cloris (Edie McClurg), and Dad, Roy (Richard Poe), are happy to see their daughter and grandchildren, they’re not necessarily keen on having their lives disrupted right now. They’ve got their almost nightly hot tub parties to consider, after all.

So Theresa’s stay is not one without drama, trivial and otherwise, and she needs to find a real job (her musical “auditions” are not putting food on the table). At first she settles on humbling yard work for various people throughout the town, but when father Jerry (Robert Turano) investigates why his son Seth (Matthew Gumley) has lost all his yard customers to an undercutting competitor, he finds Theresa… who promptly lets Jerry believe it’s her daughter Maggie (Schuyler Press) who outbid Seth on his gig and, after more confused conversation, leads to Maggie being forced to team up with Seth in the yard business while Theresa is hired by Jerry to write a song for Seth to sing at his upcoming bar mitzvah. It makes more sense than how I explained it…

And there’s a lot more going on, but I’m not here to give you the full play-by-play of the plot. Simply, Theresa is a Mother is bustling with plot and character developments, but in a very good way. The narrative is easy to follow, even as it delves into the more subtle motivations or subtext involving the different characters. It’s the type of film where you might initially say that it’s Theresa’s story, but it’s more than that.

Because Theresa isn’t the only character with an arc who develops and grows over the course of the film. Practically everyone does, even the smaller characters with limited screen time, like Jerry (who has his ideas of what Seth will be and what Seth wants, and has to come to terms with who Seth really is). In that way, it’s a film of small revelations and advances instead of huge, melodramatic blowouts that change everything. It’s a more natural growth.

At the same time, this film is more than a little goofy in its comedy. Between the hot tub parties, the youngest daughter who seems to be needing to take a shit all the time and even Seth’s eventual choice of song, it’s fun but also strange and awkward. Which is not a bad thing, I like strange and awkward (I am strange and awkward), but it is worth noting.

I did have a few qualms here or there with the edit; not so much the pacing, which is fine, but there are moments where you feel like you missed something due to how the film sets them up. The Jerry/Theresa conversation at the house, for example, while you follow it, there was a chunk of the conversation that you didn’t actually get to hear, so you get Jerry saying that Maggie and Seth should work together, but you never hear Theresa throwing Maggie under the lawnmower, as it were.

Also, some moments lost me as far as character’s behavior. For example, there’s a significant character absent at Seth’s bar mitzvah, and regardless of how good the reason, it didn’t seem right that it would play out that way. The timing felt off, almost like the filmmakers tried to accomplish too much in one cinematic night when it might’ve been better to separate the two elements more.

Overall, though, Theresa is a Mother was a very entertaining film. Again, I truly appreciated that the characters, regardless of where they would fall in the hierarchy of “lead, supporting, etc,” were all given lives to develop and grow. In fact, when I think back on the film, it’s rare that the revelations or developments I key in on are Theresa’s; more often I think of someone else. In that way, Theresa is more the glue of the film that holds everyone in the same space, so we can experience everyone’s perspective.

Read more: The Film Threat Website


Theresa McDermott has chased her “ideal” life as an urban-dwelling, punk(ish) singer-songwriter to the very end of its possible existence. She is broke, options have run out and she happens to have a few kids she is raising on her own since their dad split a year ago. Facing eviction and nowhere to go, Theresa packs up her children and what is left of her life and moves back to the small rural town, childhood home and parents she deliberately ran from a decade ago. Her parents’ mutual misery and depressingly gloomy lives where a “downer” she felt had no place in her fun city life. Yet from the moment Theresa drives back up her old driveway, it is clear that there have been some major changes. Her parents, armed with a plethora of hobbies, a hot tub and a new philosophy, are not exactly the old folks she left behind. Theresa needs a job, her parents need their space and a painful family history needs some closure.

Delightful is the word to best sum up Theresa is a Mother. The film is an absolute delight. It takes an age old story and real life experiences and makes them uniquely Theresa’s own, while incorporating an air of awkwardness that makes the experience a little too close for comfort at times for the viewer. Awkward, random hilarious situation after situation ensues in Theresa but it’s never over the top and it never detracts from the seriousness of the film. The family dynamics and the entirely too common but yet still odd situation of having to live with ones’ parents again are perfectly explored here, showing us harsh truths, the unadulterated love of family and the uncomfortable bordering on funny moments that occur within families.

C. Fraser Press is more than terrific as Theresa, the struggling mother trying to keep it all together while giving up on her dreams to help her family. Her performance never wavers and is strong throughout, not to mention hysterically funny at times. She is also able to reach into the depths of the emotional pool to bring out the sadness and frustration a mother in her position experiences. The child actors involved here were quite good as well with Schulyer Press being the standout as an almost teen who is shy and a loner and struggling to find herself. Also featured are Edie McClurg (who is wonderful as always, I’m quite the fan of hers) and Richard Poe as Theresa’s parents.

Between the remarkable script and phenomenal ensemble, Theresa is a Mother is a dramedy I highly recommend. It’s both funny and touching and will make you pause to give thought about your own family interactions. This is one to definitely add to your “Must See” list. I should probably also mention that Theresa has won over 12 awards on the festival circuit ranging from Best Director to Best Ensemble. Seriously, don’t just take my word for it – go check out the film’s website and see everything they’ve done and are up too and to learn more about the cast and crew. You can also “like” them on Facebook! So go check them out!
- Misty Lane
Rogue Cinema LINK


To Theresa (C. Fraser Press) life is a song. You may find it at a Laundromat, in a Gospel kitchen, or on an iPod. Although her life-long dream of being a professional musician has remained unfulfilled, the beat goes on against all odds as pesky details like rent and bills persist. In a last-ditch attempt at survival Theresa packs up her three children (Schuyler Iona Press, Maeve Press, Amaya Press) and leaves New York City to return to her rural childhood home. Her parents (the delightful Edie McClurg and Richard Poe) open their house, if not their hearts, to this eccentric female traveling band. Let the familial insanity begin!

THERESA IS A MOTHER is an unconventional tale of dreams and reality, past and present, responsibility and neglect, and closures and beginnings. The characters are so bizarre that at first you wonder what you are watching. But as the story unfolds, slowly the universal human elements are revealed and you are suddenly caught up in this wacky and incongruous group of people.

If that isn’t impressive enough for you, most of the actors are related. In addition to having written THERESA IS A MOTHER, C. Fraser Press co-directs and stars as the mother. Her three children belong to the Press family, as does the co-director (Darren Press). Still not imPRESSed? All the music in the film is based on the original songs by Schuyler Iona Press. Obviously THERESA IS A MOTHER is a family affair in both fiction and fact. What isn’t so obvious is its inspirational message. That sneaks up on you and packs a powerful punch.

– Laurie Lawson –


Single motherhood is an exercise in chaos — especially when you have a lot of growing up to do yourself. Such is the driving theme of the new comedy ‘Theresa Is a Mother.’ It is a family-centric film in more ways than one: Writer and lead actress C. Fraser Press co-directed the film with her husband Darren Press, and their three daughters also co-star. The result of this clan collaboration is a funny and moving portrait of a flawed but well-meaning parent trying to better herself and, as best she can, control the familial pandemonium around her.

Theresa, a forty-something aspiring musician with more heart than talent, has no money or partner. Facing eviction, she moves with her three young daughters – Maggie (Schuyler Press), Tuesday (Maeve Press), and Penelope (Amaya Press) – into her parents’ middle-of-nowhere rural house for the summer, hoping she will figure out what to do with her life.

From her financial failings to her inability to corral her kids, Theresa has some deep flaws as a mom. Press effectively portrays Theresa as a neurotic, well-meaning screw-up trying like hell to bond more with her kids — and to set a better example for them. “Parents are idiots,” Theresa concludes at one point. But as she repeatedly makes clear, that does not prevent them from caring, or trying to do better.

To its great advantage, “Theresa” emphasizes humor, character dynamics, and unfolding layers of emotion ahead of plot. Many of its scenes play out long after the plot beats have been conveyed. Humor and character interactions are allowed room to grow and breathe, amping up until scenes hit heights of supreme ridiculousness. In one scene, an out-of-sorts Theresa wanders around the perimeter of her car after being pulled over, stretching out the scene length as a police officer yells at her to get back in. She finally does, but not before getting her foot stuck in an abandoned guitar.

The film also teems with bizarre running jokes – for instance, a recurring TV cooking show starring clerically garbed African American TV chefs who sing food-themed gospel music while preparing dishes such as the “Holy Trinity three bean salad.” On the surface, some of these scenes do not seem to advance plot or character development. But they add to the film’s themes of searching for control in a world where things are anything but neat, easy or logical.

The three Press children bring impressive performances to the proceedings – especially the eldest, Schuyler, whose Maggie emanates a magnetic, odd-duck intelligence. She is obsessed with old showtunes and wears strange costumes to school, causing other kids to laugh and whisper. Much of the time, she seems off in her own head. She is somehow a child and an old soul all at once. It is a nuanced performance, and a promising film debut.

Indeed, none of the film’s characters are clichéd types. Take Jerry (Robert Turano), a seemingly uptight bank official who denies Theresa a job. Later, Jerry confronts Theresa when he thinks that Maggie has been stealing yard work jobs from his thirteen-year-old son, Seth (Matthew Gumley), by accepting lower wages. (In reality, it was Theresa herself who was stealing the work. Naturally, she does not correct him.) Just as the scene seems poised for a tense confrontation, Jerry expresses a grudging respect for “Maggie’s” ruthless capitalism, and amiably suggests that Seth and Maggie work as a team in the future. He even asks Theresa to write a song for Seth to sing at his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. The film’s characters rarely behave as expected, lending them three-dimensionality.

While it may be an old theme, “Theresa” articulately illustrates how the flaws of parents seep into the DNA of their children. Cloris (Edie McClurg) and Roy (Richard Poe) are alternately upbeat, distant, and despondent. (Much of the latter two, we learn, has to do with a past family tragedy.) And yet they clearly love their daughter, and do their meager best to show it. Their behavior and emotions explain a lot about Theresa, from her lack of self-confidence to her parental warmth. On the surface, “Theresa Is a Mother” is loose, light, and funny. But the film possesses impressive psychological depth, probing Theresa’s neuroses and their roots.

“Theresa’s” use of music is very effective. The film shuttles between a soundtrack of abrasive rock music and a soft acoustic guitar-driven score, alternately evoking overwhelming discord and a searching melancholy.

Unfortunately, Alex Kornreich’s photography tends to be sluggish, mostly consisting of static shots. While editor Chad Smith wisely avoids an overabundance of cutting, choosing instead to let long scenes play out uninterrupted, the film still might have benefited from a livelier camera. But it is a small complaint.

In “Theresa Is a Mother,” we witness two generations of children trying to take care of yet more children, and a mother trying as best she can to break the cycle and become an adult. The film could have been a shallow comedy about wacky family dynamics. Instead it is an insightful story about how parents, through all their failings and best efforts, shape their kids.

– David Teich

The four week, eight performance workshop run of What I’m failing to Learn ends with great momentum. Strong blogger reviews, full houses and an opportunity to see the show develop over a month bodes well for AMSPE to further develop the show. Congratulations to Schuyler, the band and dancers and crew for a fantastic workshop!

Some quick reviews:

“Tween phenom singer songwriter Schuyler Iona Press is presenting a workshop production of her new multimedia musical at 13th Street Rep Theater. This production is a work in progress. It is a unique opportunity to witness a young artist polish her work. Ms. Press has accumulated many an accolade in her young career. One expects many more are to come.”

“Fourteen-year-old rising singer/songwriter/actress Schuyler Iona Press captivates those of all ages with her deceptively simple melodies and introspective lyrics.”

“WIFTL” is a brilliant mash up of Schuyler’s vivid and unique song-scapes, traditional musical theater archetypes, dancing and a sub plot which unfolds via multi media that is enhanced in the cleverest of ways by a cast whose talent is bursting at the seams. It’s beautifully directed by Casey Fraser Press & Darren Press”

“Think a young, female Jonathan Larson meets a young Alanis Morissette, and you can get some idea of Schuyler’s musicality, voice, storytelling, observation and overall promise. With a song like “I Am Today,” which she penned when she was less than 10, you hear an example of a memorable show tune…one that you yearn to see included in a full scale musical that may one day come to fruition. It wouldn’t be too much to expect from her!”

“The real reason to go see WHAT I’M FAILING TO LEARN is to get in on the ground floor of what can only become a major artist. Cement shoes couldn’t stop the multi-talented Press from soaring to the heights of success. Catch her on the way up, and you can say “I knew her when.”


Must See: “Theresa is a Mother” Hits Orlando Film Festival
By Mike Cantone on October 19, 2012.
Life can take you off track and these days it’s hard to find anyone who can’t relate to that. Whether it’s struggling to find a job, not being able to pay the rent or attempting to raise a family, people are facing difficult transitions. But as everyone attempts to navigate the changing times, “Theresa is a Mother” shows that heart will always set you right.
From the moment the film starts to the very end, viewers will become immersed in the film, feeling part of the family and part of this story. Theresa McDermott (C. Fraser Press) is a single mother in New York City who is down on her luck and down on life. Facing the hard times, Theresa takes a journey that tackles old wounds, unattainable dreams, and some other “exposures” as her family tries to become whole.
This is the first feature film for co-directors Darren and C. Fraser Press and they truly make it a family affair with the casting of their equally talented daughters, Schuyler Iona, Maeve, and Amaya. They also produced the feature along with Associate Producer Christina Powers and all were in Orlando for the screening. C. Fraser Press steals the show with a compelling performance and is nominated for Best Actress in the Orlando Film Festival. Press recently won Best Actress at the Reel Independent Film Festival in Washington D.C. where the movie won Best Feature Film. Both are deserving of encore wins.
Between the genuine script and the excellent acting, this movie will leave you laughing throughout while pulling your heartstrings making it hard to fight back the tears. Every scene in this film showed the Press family as masters of storytelling, but what really makes this film enjoyable are the heartwarming emotions, genuine dialogue, and convincing characterization by every actor.
The multi-talented Schuyler Iona Press wrote and performed the feature’s score. All three Press daughters will have bright futures. Matthew Gumley adds a surprisingly funny and enjoyable character to the mix, while Richard Poe and Edie McClurg lend key supporting roles to complete the story.
“Theresa is a Mother” blends a beautiful narrative that comes full circle. A story with many levels and many life lessons, this is a movie that makes you feel good about life when you walk out of the theater.
It’s rare to find a story told like this today. At the end of the screening, C. Fraser Press told the audience this was “a project that really became a joy from beginning to end.” Indeed it is a joy. “Theresa is a Mother” proves to be a captivating feature film that will resonate with diverse audiences. A remarkable independent feature film worth watching – don’t miss it.