A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"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." With those opening words, "Eve's Bayou" coils back into the past, into the memories of a child who grew up in a family both gifted and flawed, and tried to find her own way to the truth. The words explain the method of the film. This will not be a simple-minded story that breathlessly races from A to B. It is a selection of memories, filtered through the eyes of a young girl who doesn't understand everything she sees--and filtered, too, through the eyes of her older sister, and through the eyes of an aunt who can foretell everyone's future except for her own.
As these images unfold, we are drawn into the same process Eve has gone through: We, too, are trying to understand what happened in that summer of 1962, when Eve's handsome, dashing father--a doctor and womanizer--took one chance too many. And we want to understand what happened late one night between the father and Eve's older sister, in a moment that was over before it began.
We want to know because the film makes it perfectly possible that there is more than one explanation; "Eve's Bayou" studies the way that dangerous emotions can build up until something happens that no one is responsible for and that can never be taken back.
All of these moments unfold in a film of astonishing maturity and confidence; "Eve's Bayou," one of the very best films of the year, is the debut of its writer and director, Kasi Lemmons. She sets her story in Southern Gothic country, in the bayous and old Louisiana traditions that Tennessee Williams might have been familiar with, but in tone and style she earns comparison with the family dramas of Ingmar Bergman. That Lemmons can make a film this good on the first try is like a rebuke to established filmmakers.