“It feels unreal to tell the story.” Dave Navarro, documentary extract
A desert backdrop, bright, hot and barren. Blood, dripping, slowly and purposefully filling a wineglass. Dave Navarro’s face half smothered in blood. A dark, powerful metaphor for so many things – pain, loss, death…but most of all, rebirth. Truly a beautiful and artistic way to commence a movie, perfectly coming full-circle when the scene is revisited towards the end of the documentary, this time in its entirety, revealing the purpose of this mysterious bloodletting.
“I would like for [Mourning Son] to be a cautionary tale.” Dave Navarro, from Movie Screening Q&A
The movie is certainly not for the squeamish (if you don’t like blood, incisions and needles, you may want to look away at some points…), or the emotionally faint-hearted: it’s raw and heavy, tragic as much as it is gripping. However, it’s important to see. This is a real-life story, a real-life scenario that could happen to anyone…and that’s why people need to be aware.
Navarro was only 15-years-old when his mother was murdered – cold, heartlessly, at point-blank. And Dave was meant to be there that night. He had a specific rota, since his parents had divorced several years prior: he would spend his time divided between his mother and father, spending a few days here and there. The night of March 3rd (1983), Dave was set to spend the night with his mother; however, a last-minute change-of-plan had him staying with his father, James Navarro, instead. If anything were to ever be serendipitous…well, this was it.
Connie Navarro, a truly beautiful woman (both inside and out, from all that we hear), was a professional model, paying her bills by appearing on game shows, magazines and advertisements. She was said to bring joy to everyone’s lives around her, always smiling and friendly. The fact that anyone should want to destroy such a life…it remains a tragedy and a mystery. But the effect that this had on the survivors of this tragedy - that’s a whole other story. As Dan Navarro (Dave’s cousin) puts it: “There’s a whole new dark side of Dave, of course, that emerged that moment.” Even Dave himself said, “It just was the darkest, most horrible, moment of my life.” There is no way that an individual like that is left harmless and scarless. The wounds have already been opened.
John Riccardi was a nice man. Well, seemingly nice. He was a model boyfriend, good-looking, buff, apparently ready to protect those he loved at any time. In fact, people felt safe around him, in the (apparent) knowledge that he could always protect them. I mean, after all, he had a gun. So, of course, he was able to defend and protect those around him. Or so they thought at first.
On the afternoon of March 4th, 1983, Riccardi broke into Connie Navarro’s flat, where both Connie and her best friend, Sue Jory, were present. Following a brief confrontation, he went on to shoot Connie twice, before turning to Sue and shooting her point-blank in the face. Upon seeing that Connie was still alive, he proceeded to drag her into the storage cupboard (presumably in a feeble attempt to hide the body), before grabbing a pillow and snuffing out her last breath of life. She was discovered, her body still only half inside the cupboard.
I remember a certain incident when (let’s call him) Anthony Cock was talking to Dave, discussing the loss of parent-figures…well, I recall Anthony saying something like, “Oh, wow, we have something in common then – my mother died when I was younger too, I know what that feels like.” Well, his mother had died of a terminal illness, during his early adult years. It was no doubt tragic, completely destroying. However, I can honestly say that it’s not the same, and it’s almost an insult to believe so. Believe me, I only feel the right to say that because I’ve been in such a situation myself. To lose someone so suddenly, so unexpectedly and unfairly…I’m certain no one could prepare you for something like that. Biological diseases, terminal illnesses – they are awful, absolutely devastating. But I can truly tell you, there’s not a single day that I would want to trade places with someone like Dave. To lose a loved one so abruptly, without any real foresight or warning – I cannot even begin to imagine how awful such an experience would be. The fact that the killer roamed freely for over a decade just adds salt to the wounds…
“The whole time I’m out, touring the world, Riccardi was still on the loose…there was fear and terror.” Dave Navarro, documentary extract
The incident of when Riccardi handcuffed the 13-year-old Dave to their toilet was a dark precursor of what was to come – he was a true psycho, a tried-and-tested sociopath. The worst part about confronting a sociopath is that there is honestly never any sort of closure – after all, they’re devoid of human empathy, they will never feel pain or a need for forgiveness. And I truly believe that that is one of the hardest parts to deal with. Of course I don’t know this for sure, but I can only imagine. Dave’s conclusion on the situation couldn’t be simpler or ring truer though, and is evidence of his ability to fight through emotional turmoil and come out the other side: “At the end of the day, he’s just some old dude dying in jail.”
We can’t forget that – there’s always light at the end of the tunnel (as cheesy as it sounds). This is partly a movie about evil, but fundamentally about overcoming that evil. It reminds us that there are disgusting people out there, but that, eventually, those people cannot stop us. And we must be vigilant at all times, we must call out for help when it’s needed. In fact, Dave makes a huge emphasis on this: if you’re in a situation where you’re experiencing domestic violence, or you suspect that someone is being abused…act on it. The worst that could happen is that you’re too late…and you should never have to get to that point. As Dave phrases it, “it’s almost impossible to foresee (even though you see warning signs) something as devastating as killing...it’s almost impossible to imagine it going that far…and if anything I would love this to be a warning to people […] because the most…the worst case scenario is, in fact, possible…if you let it go unchecked.”
“I have to cite divine intervention…there’s a couple of occasions where I could have easily been taken out…thank you...” Dave Navarro, Movie Screening Q&A.
This is a movie about psychological exploration and emotional closure – you can tell that filming it was a therapeutic outlet for Dave as much as it was the telling of a story. Foremost of all, though, it is a cautionary tale. Shot and edited beautifully, the documentary keeps you constantly on your toes, an emotional rollercoaster at all times; with interviews from friends and family, old footage of the Navarro household, as well as heavy images from the court hearing, the film gives a true insight into Dave Navarro’s past and into his mind, the likes of which has never been seen before. Music fan or not, this is something anyone can watch, and everyone should watch.
For those of you worried that the movie might simply be too heavy, it might be nice to know: it is pretty darn funny at times. And, well, how could it not be – after all, this is Todd Newman and Dave Navarro we’re talking about. No matter how dark the situation (yep, not even a murdered mother is precluded from this), they manage to crack plenty of jokes, having the entire auditorium laughing out loud on numerous occasions. Alas, what better way to alleviate pain than by using humour? If you’re still worried that the documentary might be too much for you to handle, let it be known that, “It was way more blue […] we had to pull out a lot of stuff.”
“It was way more blue […] we had to pull out a lot of stuff.” Dave Navarro, Film Screening Q&A