Body of Water Review. By Trent Neely.
This film follows Stephanie (Siân Brooke), who has just finished a seven month stay at a treatment center for an ongoing struggle with an eating disorder. Her mother Susan (Amanda Burton) picks her up from the center and it is evident from their initial interactions that they have a long and complex history.
Similarly, Stephanie’s daughter Pearl (Fabienne Piolini-Castle) is experiencing anger and resentment due to Stephanie’s absence, which in turn has caused her to rebel in the form of an unhealthy relationship with an older boy and even exhibiting some behaviors of having an eating disorder herself. Adding to all of this, Stephanie begins to develop feelings for Shaun (Nick Blood), the nurse supervising the progress of her recovery after leaving the treatment facility. The rest of the film centers on Stephanie striving to battle her illness in all its facets, as well as build healthy relationships with those around her.
The film excels at rooting its story in character. Writer-director Lucy Brydon in conjunction with the performers make sure that each character feels fully fleshed-out with desires, weaknesses and intricacies. Brooke, Burton, and Piolini-Castle in particular do a great job of playing these three women as people who have a built-in love, history and conflict without having to rely on heavy amounts of exposition to help lend credence to the relationships.
From their opening scene together, Burton portrays Susan as a woman whose heart breaks for what her daughter has been through, sadness, and even anger that she can not seem to help her more, and frustration that she does not fully understand how Stephanie can still be sick. For her part, Brooke does a superb job demonstrating how difficult fighting an illness can be. Not only does Stephanie wrestle with her eating disorder, but also depression and anger over how her illness and absence has wounded the people around her.
While it would be tempting to play Pearl as simply just a rebellious angry teen, the script and Piolini-Castle’s performance ensures that more nuance shines through. While Pearl does start off as angry and aloof towards her mother, rejecting Stephanie’s initial attempts at reconciliation, As the film progresses, the viewer sees Pearl mature as she understands that her mother really is sick and did not simply abandon her as perhaps she once thought.
The technical aspects of the film mostly serve mostly to highlight the character’s and performances. Director of Photography Darran Bragg’s camera mostly stays wide, allowing the actors to be the main force drawing the audience’s attention. There are a few scenes in the film where characters eat, and it unfolds in long, unbroken shots. This perfectly demonstrates not only the awkward tension for these characters as they reconnect, but also how stressful, even difficult sitting down for a meal can be for someone who is battling an eating disorder.
Particularly one of the film’s final scenes where Stephanie gorges herself on food in an uncomfortably long shot as Rory Attwell’s score morphs into a piercing hum, giving voice to Stephanie’s stress. When Bragg’s camera does close in, it is used to highlight a particular emotional moment, such as the few times we see Stephanie’s emaciated body. The more intimate framing of Stephanie’s figure allows the image to have a much greater impact than a wider setup would have.
If one is looking for a film that features strong performances, layered writing, purposeful framing and an honest portrayal on how difficult battling illness can be and how it can affect many people, watch this film if given the chance.
Body of Water – released on digital and DVD 11th January.
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