An old wood-paneled house with a wide porch
surrounded by scraggly woods. Sun streaming through the
leaves. A dog tied up outside barks. Morning birds chirp.
Toys strewn in the dirt.
DOTTIE, 13, lies sideways on her bed, her head
falling over the edge. A fan whirs in the background. Her
thin tank top rides up and she tugs it down.
She gets up and stands in front of the full-length mirror,
examining her protruding stomach. Sucks it in, plops it back
Dottie: name, short for Dorothy, a borrowing of the Greek Dōrothea, a compound name composed of the elements dōron (gift) and theos (God) - hence, "gift of God."
One simmering summer morning, Dottie stands in the mirror, sucking her belly in and out. It’s sticking out more than usual, peeking out from under her raggedy tank top. She fixes cereal for her little cousins, pouring out the last morsels in the box. Jenny, her aunt, rests on the couch, mechanically raising a cigarette to and fro her mouth. Jenny snidely quips about Dottie’s pudgy stomach. But she takes a longer look, and a creeping suspicion overcomes her.
Jenny returns from the store with a pregnancy test, shoving it at Dottie with vague instructions. Seeing the positive result, Jenny’s temper blows. She screams at Dottie, questioning who the boy is. Dottie is utterly dumbfounded and terrified. Upon Dottie’s insistence on her innocence, Jenny snarls that she must be some kind of Virgin Mary. This idea sticks with Dottie.
From here, the film follows Dottie through her childlike delight at the prospect of having a daughter of her own. But when she realizes that her situation is more terrifying than she could ever have imagined, she has to make a choice that is heartbreaking beyond her years: give up for adoption the baby girl she was raised to dream of, or keep her for herself and possibly continue a dangerous cycle of trauma and abuse.
Baylee moved away from Tennessee as a young girl, but spent each year of childhood and adolescence returning and marking her growth on the doorframe of her grandmother’s house every summer. As she grew, she dreamed of spinning grandiose plots and tales in her movies - until one night two summers ago, in her Tennessee home, she understood that the most important story she could tell was the one she knew best. The one that has always been within her. She inherited it.
We all inherit from our ancestors. Some inherit material items: money, land, keepsakes. Others inherit the cycles of their family, passed down generation by generation: abuse, poverty, mental illness.
Daughter is the story of a 13 year old girl who finds the strength to break the cycle.
This is not an autobiographical story. None of these events actually took place. But it is true. It has a core of truth that resonates with what we all know as humans - that we have the ability to overcome the struggles that our past has given us, the courage to act against what we know is wrong, and above all, the power to choose a different path.