Yinz is a Gender Neutral Pronoun – a film review of “Two Lives in Pittsburgh”

By Michael Buzzelli

Paramahansa Yogananda once said, “Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes.” That’s especially true for Bernie Evers (Brian Silverman) as he’s raising a child, Maddie( Emma Basques) while taking care of his mother, Carla (Annie O’Donnell), as she nears the end of her life in “Two Lives in Pittsburgh.”

The film premieres locally at the Three Rivers Film Festival on Thursday, November 9th at the Harris Theater in downtown Pittsburgh.

Carla is feisty. Maddie is fearless. Bernie, however, is riddled with fear and self-doubt. He’s having difficulty dealing with life after high school, especially when the boy he used to bully, Will Garcia (Mark McClain Wilson), shows up in his life as Maddie’s teacher.

Bernie doesn’t have a lot going for him. He’s a handyman with a crush on his mother’s caretaker, Theresa (Delissa Reynolds) and three Yinzer drinking buddies, Frizz (Robert John Brewer), Satch (Casey Braxton) and Jim (Sky Elobar). He lives a small, quiet life.

But Maddie is not content with the way things are.

It’s clear to Will, the school principal (Lola Noh), and Carla, that young Maddie was assigned male at birth, but does not want to follow that pre-designated trajectory.  When Maddie exposes her secret, other secrets brew up.

Bernie Evers (Brian Silverman) picks up Maddie( Emma Basques) and Carla (Annie O’Donnell) when Carla gets booted out of Maddie’s grade school for calling Maddie’s bully an obscene name.

The beauty of “Two Lives in Pittsburgh” is how a Yinzer who’s glory days were in high school has to contend with the secrets swirling around him.  Bernie handles it with his same steadfast normalcy. He’s the calm center, the eye of the storm.

“Two Lives in Pittsburgh” is a quiet film, but it’s low-key impact sneaks up on you. It packs a powerful punch in the final act. There’s a very charming center to the story.

Silverman wrote, directed and starred in this low-key masterpiece. He cast strong, capable actors in the roles. He gives his character some strong conflicts and doesn’t tidy everything up nice and neat. Like real life, doesn’t tie everything up in a neat bow, but gives the audience a satisfying ending.

O’Donnell is a terrific. She gets to play a wide range of emotions. She gets a tearful speech about bravery that will doubtlessly require many audience members to whip out the tissues and dab their eyes.

Basques is spectacular as Maddie.

Reynolds is another stand out in a film with strong actors. Her character, Theresa, is reasonable and logical, but approaches everyone with compassion. The actor’s own compassion seeps out.

Scenes of the city and the suburbs zip by, but Main Street in Carnegie shows up a few times. Shot by the down-to-earth cinematography of Tiffany Murray.

Bernie’s friends are perfectly cast. Silverman captures the essence of the characters – a group of subterranean Steeler fans.

Silverman’s Bernie is a working class guy, but he has a generous heart who has to learn about compassion. He passes with flying rainbow colors.

“Two Lives in Pittsburgh” is full of heart. It’s a great representation of a family facing issues that could easily overwhelm them. It’s a perfect showcase for a Pittsburgh film festival.


“Two Lives in Pittsburgh” has it’s Pittsburgh premiere at the Harris Theater, 809 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 as part of the Three Rivers Film Festival. For more information and additional details about the festival, click here


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