The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio (a movie review)


Quick Summary: Evelyn Ryan is a mother of ten children living in Defiance, Ohio in the 1950’s. It was a time where mothers stayed home to care for the family, dinner on the table ready for when the husband came home, and jingle after jingle on the television offering prizes for your contribution. Married to a man who means well but spend his paycheck on alcohol before bills, Evelyn uses her wit and skills to keep the family going by winning various contests from TV ads and magazine clippings. Back in the day when you actually had to write something clever instead of being a random chance winner, Evelyn uses it to express her creativity and lack of freedom at home. When times get rougher then normal she must try to keep her family together, her home intact, and always with a smile on her face.

So this movie was a little more serious than I was expecting, but nonetheless I enjoyed it quite a bit. Based off a true story written by a daughter of Evelyn, this film shows how one woman keeps it together through good and bad. Being at home with the ten kids, not knowing how to drive, and having strict finances, the mother doesn’t get to express herself with others or have time to be creative. The contests, which range from winning twenty dollars to an entire car, have helped keep the family afloat for years. Using her writing skills and upbeat attitude, it seems like there isn’t a contest she couldn’t win.

Going deeper, the film shows the up and downs of the family relationships and well as social norms for the time. An example being Kelly her husband. He once had dreams and plans, but due to a car accident wasn’t able to realize them. Battling with depression and alcoholism, he wants to support his family yet is unable to due to his shortcomings. This brings on financial hardship since he is the sole working person in the family.We often see the strain that he has with himself, with his children, and with his wife. The two address themselves as Mother and Father, no pet names, no first names. It feels almost sterile in a way. Evelyn seems to almost be living in a world of her own, going through the motions, trying to take care of the whole family the best way she can, always looking on the lighter side of life.

It is a story of a woman’s struggles in her marriage, in society, and in family. Yet with the right jingle and entry contest, she can make it another day.

(I fear I may have rambled a bit with this review. It has been a while since I’ve done one, my skill are rusty!)