This quaint slice of small town life — set in author, screenwriter and director Adriana Trigiani’s hometown of Big Stone Gap, Va. — has all the hallmarks of quirky Americana. Its protagonist is Ave Maria Mulligan (Ashley Judd), a spinster in the mid-to-late 1970s, who dares to dream of more than settling down because that’s what women are supposed to want. She owns and runs her own business, directs the town theater troupe and promotes its production across the region, and takes care of her mother Fiammetta (Angelina Fiordellisi), an Italian immigrant with a secret that slowly slips free upon her death and gradually shakes Ave to her core.
Fiammetta’s death is but the first of a series of dominos that fall, awakening Ave from a not-so-contented slumber. During an engaging phone interview, Trigiani spoke of her burning desire to “entertain, enchant, and uplift” audiences, rather than assault them with more of the grim nightmares that pass for truth on screens big and small. With Big Stone Gap, Trigiani sets out to crack the cycle of sentimental melodrama by reminding us that adults still dare to dream and sometimes even follow through on achieving those hard-to-articulate wishes. (PG-13) Grade: B+