Pearls (Family Drama)
GENRE: Feature Film, PG13 - Family Drama with a young, female heroine
TONE: Dreamer meets The Florida Project
THEME: Your imagination can save you from despair and help you face any challenges throughout your lifetime. This is a somewhat magical story about relationships and how essential they are to the human spirit. Pearl creates life-affirming relationships with her father, her best childhood friend, and her future selves.
LOGLINE: Nine-year-old Pearl discovers that she can see fifteen minutes into her future soon after her father is taken into custody to testify at a mobster’s trial. She invents and literally sees Future Self who helps her win enough money at the racetrack so she can pay off her father’s debt and reunite her family. Future Self also helps her live a deeper, richer life.
OPENING SEQUENCE: While riding in a car on the highway, images blur by PEARL (9, adorable and fierce) through half-opened eyes in a dream-like sequence, intercut with quick images of a life unraveling both forward and backward from ages nine to ninety-nine. Pearl narrates the ‘bigger picture’ of her life, beginning with the words, I am.
She continues narrating in the next scene as she visits Chicago’s Lincoln Park zoo with her father THEO (40+ unemployed and charismatic) one spring day, and then waiting anxiously for him to pick her up after schoo. She describes his unexpected disappearance when he forgot to pick her up after school one day.
The previous month unfolds with her father’s decline to the point of his disappearance. Theo and Pearl take the train to the opening day at the racetrack. They win a little from her twenty dollars, then lose it all. They meet the owner, MYRON (60+, a polished gangster) who invites Theo to an exclusive poker game. Theo sneaks out that night and wins big. They need the money, but he promises his wife, SADIE (38, pragmatic and pretty) that he’ll stop gambling. He doesn’t. His winning streak doesn’t last and he loses big. Financially beholden to Myron, he’s forced to launder money for the mob to pay back his debt. The Feds take him into custody to become a witness against the mob. He says nothing at all in order to protect his family.
INCITING INCIDENT: Pearl is devastated when Theo goes ‘missing’ and can’t sleep. She snuggles up in his clothes in his closet, which triggers a recurring dream of an old, dying woman surrounded by women of all ages who calls out for her. Pearl runs through her apartment searching frantically for her father. She sees the back of Theo on a balcony framed by a blue sky, just out of her reach behind heavy, sliding glass doors. She wakes up before she can finish the dream and is nudged awake by FUTURE SELF, a reverberating apparition of herself in the future.
At first, Pearl is confused and stunned by Future Self, but soon utilizes her in various ways, such as, getting the answers to a math quiz or helping her cross a busy intersection. All she wants is for Future Self to tell her when she’s going to see her dad again. Her teacher/mentor, MS. STELLA teaches her to meditate and helps her stretch her imagination into new realms.
Pearl goes home after school with her best friend, MARTA (Latina, artistic, loyal) who is extremely poor and remarkably industrious. They empty garbage for taco trucks in exchange for food. Marta takes Pearl on adventures in the city with her mother’s subway pass. They go to the Humane Society to play with the puppies, which was her favorite thing to do with her dad. Pearl’s mother tracks her on her cell phone’s GPS. Pearl has to go to the after school program instead of Marta’s house and must deal with the class bully, BUZZ who taunts her.
In an attempt to help her father, Pearl and Marta sneak away after school (without the phone) and take the train to the racetrack in search of Myron. Pearl discovers that Future Self can accurately predict the winners of the races. She confronts Myron. He’s intimidating, but also impressed by her courage. He tips her off that her dad truly didn’t know what was in the brief cases. Future Self helps her understand the ramifications of this information, which in turn helps free Theo after he successfully passes a lie detector test.
Future Self instigates a fight between Pearl and the class bully, which gets her expelled. School policy dictates that she must spend three days under parental supervision. To her great surprise and delight, Theo has just been released and waits for her in the principal’s office with Sadie. Their reunion is emotional. Pearl shares her secret with him. They return to the racetrack, so she can prove to Theo that Future Self exists and can predict the future. They win a lot of money and promise not to tell mom.
Sadie discovers the stash of money under Pearl’s bed and accompanies them to the zoo the next day. She confronts them. Theo admits it and apologizes. Sadie is so furious that she asks him to leave. Pearl confesses about Future Self and pleads with her mother to let her prove it (This isn’t my lying face). Sadie finally agrees to go to the racetrack, but for only one race. Pearl panics and can’t find Future Self, until Theo reassures her that both he and Future Self will always be there for her. Future Self returns, they bet, win, and celebrate. Sadie gets swept up in the excitement. They bet until they win back all the money that Theo owes Myron, which Pearl carries in her school backpack.
All that catapulting between the present and future so quickly takes its toll on Pearl and she gets dizzy and sick. Theo makes them stop and tells Pearl that this is all her money, but it’s the only time she’s ever going to use her gift for financial gain. He loves her too much to let her miss her own life. He explains that life is only in the present moment. I want you to have a lifetime of beautiful moments that you can string together like a strand of Pearls.
Future Self pops up one more time before they leave the racetrack and reveals a situation that has her family in danger. Pearl pretends to go to the bathroom (with her backpack) and makes a bee-line for Myron’s private office. She enters uninvited, dumps the money out, and ‘buys’ back her father’s freedom. Amazed at her moxie, Myron wants to know how she did it. She won’t tell him, but promises to never come back to the racetrack again. They shake on it.
Her frantic parents see her running toward them with the empty backpack on her shoulders. She runs into Theo’s arms. Without saying a word, he knows. They both cry, finally free to be together as a family.
Back in the car, Pearl falls asleep on the way home, harkening back to the opening images. The dream finally plays out in its entirety and reveals that the dying old woman is her in the future and that all the women in the room are versions of her future selves. This moment connects Pearl to her entire life in one instant as her nine-year-old self flashes forward and her ninety-nine-year-old self flash backward.
In the dream, the old woman takes her last breath and transforms to energy. All the women transform to energy and infuse the little one with their essence, the power of their life lessons. She runs to the balcony and into Theo’s arms. Both the dream Theo and the present day Theo ask her simultaneously, Are you with me, Pearl? We’re almost home. The dream Pearl and the present day, nine-year-old Pearl respond in unison, I am.