Gal Young Un: Victor Nunez Directing Debut, basedMarjorie Kinnan Rawlings Story

Victor Nunez’s first feature, Gal Young Un, which he wrote, directed, shot, and edited, helped to shape regional cinema within the larger independent movement.

The film is set in the Prohibition Era of the 1920s, in Florida’s backwoods country, light years away from the fancy resorts along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The period details are striking, particularly Nunez’ camera work and Charles Engstrom’s country music score.

Based on Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s 1932 story, Gal Young Un is a comedy about a robust woman of substantial reserves. Mattie (Dana Preu, an English professor who had never acted before), a middle-aged widow, lives alone in the pinewoods, having given up society. Mattie works for her immediate needs, pays her bills on time, smokes a pipe to relax, but she has given up on social lifeor even society.

Into her life comes Trax (David Peck), a no-good womanizer with a gift for gab and gallantry. He brings home a teenager to work as a housekeeper (the “gal young-un” of the title)

Trax obviously prefers the gal young-un and intends to move her into Mattie’s home as his new partner. The girl appears very innocent, and Mattie is also angry at Trax for eagerly exploiting such a young woman, realizing she has similarly been taken in by his charm.

Trax courts Mattie, who’s old enough to be his mother, for her money, and she, charmed by his courtship and youthful energy, accepts his proposal. It is a peculiar marriage; Trax is always threatening to leave, essentially blackmailing Mattie. He his time in the big cities, living high on her profits, coming home only to pick up another load of liquor and leave his laundry. Mattie bides her time, but it’s clear that she won’t be bested by him.

A man named Trax appears, in need of money, and courts Mattie, who is old enough to be his mother. Mattie is charmed by his youth. When Mattie asks why he’d want to marry someone as old and tired as she is, Trax says, “Why not? There’s not a thing wrong with you.”

The movie ends with Trax run off by Mattie holding a shotgun. She tells the girl to leave, and follow him, but Gal Young-Un replies: “He don’t want me.”  She sits on the porch until Mattie finally invites her in and gives her supper.

The movie ends with the two women sitting by the fire together. The young girl is petting a cat, as Mattie says to the purring cat: “It’s nice to have people around, isn’t it?”