Synopsis by Josh Ralske
Thirteen won the Don Quixote Prize from the FICC at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival, and earned Virginia-based painter turned filmmaker David Williams the Movado Someone to Watch Award at the 1999 Independent Spirit Awards. This was more than a year after the completion of Thirteen, his second feature. Williams' film blurs the line between documentary and fiction. He cast neighbor Lillian Folley and her daughter, Nina Dickens (the title refers to her age), as the mother and daughter leads in the film. The two had previously appeared in Lillian, Williams' first feature, which dealt with Lillian's adoption of Nina. The dialogue in Thirteen was unscripted. Williams started filming with a few basic story ideas and hoped the film would find its own path. Shortly after the film opens, we learn from Lillian's laconic narration that the quiet, moody Nina has run away from home. Williams cuts back and forth between the outpouring of concern Lillian gets from friends and family and Nina's low-key adventures on the road. Just as the social workers are about to begin their investigation in earnest, Nina nonchalantly comes home. Lillian is so relieved that her anger immediately dissipates. The automobile-obsessed Nina then decides to do everything she can to earn money to buy a car. At first Lillian thinks this is a passing fancy, like many of Nina's interests, but it soon becomes clear that Nina's determination is very strong. Soon she's earning money posing for a local artist, and looking after neighborhood children and pets. She even (unsuccessfully) applies for a job as a real estate agent. Lillian is proud of her daughter's industriousness, despite her obvious inability to drive. Things don't go quite according to Nina's plans, but the bond between her and Lillian grows stronger.
daughter, mother, runaway [from home], investigation, social-worker, car