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  Body of Water Unshakeable
Year: 2020
Director: Lucy Brydon
Stars: Sian Brooke, Amanda Burton, Fabienne Piolini-Castle, Nick Blood, Kazia Pelka, Adeyinka Akinrinade, Anna Devlin, Debra Baker, Frances Pooley, Archie Renaux, Sophie Brooke, Naveed Khan, Jahannah James, Roxanne Palmer, Ilaria Ambrogi, Benjamin Lok
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It’s time for Stephanie (Sian Brooke) to leave the sanatorium again, she has done it before and each time she hopes it will be for the last time. She has an eating disorder that she has never been able to get over, and while many girls with that illness will move on from it after a period of years, she is not one of those girls, approaching forty and with a teenage daughter, Pearl (Fabienne Piolini-Castle), who despises her for her weakness and apparent abandonment of her. Pearl lives with her grandmother Susan (Amanda Burton) who has effectively brought her up from a young age, but Susan needs to look after Stephanie as well, and Stephanie feels humiliated that she cannot stand on her own two feet after all this time. But is there a way out?

Well, maybe there is, but you may not like it in writer and director Lucy Brydon's debut feature which sought to highlight the problems of anorexics, herself a survivor of a disorder and now hoping to help others in understanding what it was like to suffer. This was assuredly a story written from the inside looking out rather than the outside looking in, and while much of it may come across as alien to anyone who is lucky enough never to have endured the experience, either personally or from the perspective of having a loved one go through it, thanks to Brooke's performance the work presented a way into appreciating how it would feel, if not fully sympathising since some of Stephanie's choices can appear to be needlessly self-sabotaging.

Yet if you have ever had a mental illness, there was much here that would strike a chord, even if your affliction had not been an eating disorder, especially if that illness had stuck around and refused to leave you. The long term is believably something to be terrified of in this film, the acknowledgement that things like this take their time and will not shift for many sufferers was tangible in every frame, which is why you may be concerned Brydon was being irresponsible in portraying her main character's utter desolation. That sense that nobody can help you because you're too messed up can be addictive too, and the victimhood can be romanticised by the patient and in others who seek to look after you - or make you worse and sustain your illness. But Body of Water would counter that by pointing out it was merely being honest.

How useful that was is up for debate, but you would hope that a debate would arise, and that is to be encouraged. It was also accurate to say this would be a tough film to recommend, especially when it was released while the world was going through a sanity-testing era of the pandemic, and the last thing many would want to watch was a film about someone showing you just how bad the pressure of society can get on someone with a disorder. There was a fear here, in Stephanie as well as the other two generations in her family, that they were not going to be able to cope; Pearl has the arrogance of youth, but also the danger she will unintentionally follow in her mother's footsteps, while Susan seems the most together of the three, preparing as she is for her second wedding, but allows the cracks in her not entirely helpful façade to show too. The film itself had some flaws: the dialogue got a bit EastEnders when the arguing began, and any medical professional who started a sexual relationship with their patient wouldn't last too long in that job, but it did aim to hit hard, though you may wonder how much despair we're expected to take in ninety minutes. Music by Rory Attwell.

[Body of Water - released on digital and DVD 11th January 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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