The Spitfire Grill

Director: Lee David Zlotoff
Screenwriters: Lee David Zlotoff

Institute History


The effectiveness of director Lee David Zlotoff’s feature film debut stems from a creative intelligence that permeates all aspects of this engrossing melodrama. What might have been a simplistic treatment of an old story is transformed by superb performances, riveting direction, and attention to detail and nuance into marvelously realized storytelling.

When Percy (Alison Elliot) is released from prison, she makes her way to a small Maine town where she manages to find employment and shelter at a local café, run by the aging, but still indomitable, Hannah, played by Ellen Burstyn. In relatively short order, Percy begins to settle in. Then, not unexpectedly, certain small-minded townspeople, led by the self-righteous Nahum (Will Patton), begin to pry into her background (fueled a bit by her own assertions) and undercut her newfound stability. Marcia Gay Harden, in an exceptional scene-stealing performance as Shelby, and Burstyn help her to persevere when circumstances, complicated by her curiosity about a shadowy figure for whom she has been instructed to leave food every night, culminate in a web of suspicion and mistrust. Emotionally as powerful and compelling as any other film in this year’s competition. Care of the Spitfire Grill is an exploration of redemption and rebirth—of a girl, a marriage, a mother and a son, and a town.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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