Review: Wendy (Dir. Benh Zeitlin, 2020)

Wendy Darling (Devin France)

M. Night Shyamalan isn’t the only filmmaker preoccupied with getting old as Benh Zeitlin’s long awaited sophomore feature Wendy is finally released in cinemas this week.

Once there was a… not a Hushpuppy this time around but a haunted train complete with “ghost” who steals away young Thomas (Krzysztof Meyn) from the whistle stop hash house Angie Darling (Shay Walker) serves at. The two-year-old toddler Wendy (Tommie Milazzo), stands on the counter top exposing her dimpled knees, through a halo of dark curls and full-lashed baby blues drinking it all in. Thomas is intent on becoming a pirate when he grows up and gets rather indignant when he’s informed he’ll be a “mop and broom man” like most grown men in the area. He flips out, flings off his trousers and climbs aboard the train at the behest of the cloaked figure up top.

The Darlings L-R: Wendy, James (Gage Naquin) and Douglas (Gavin Naquin)

As Wendy grows (now played by Devin France), Thomas’ ‘taking’ is what informs her bedtime stories as she imagines, narrates and illustrates his adventures while the reality of his missing child poster stares out from the wall of the café. Her brothers, twins, James (Gage Naquin) and Douglas (Gavin Naquin) prefer running wild, catching turtles and generally causing mayhem. It leads to a conversation with their mother in which it becomes clear that seeking adventures away from the confines of responsibilities gets increasingly harder as one gets older – dreams simply change.

Straight on ’til morning

The next night Wendy, impulsively, decides to throw caution to the wind and climb aboard the chugging train with James and Douglas hot on her heels. She introduces herself to the phantom who, upon closer inspection, is an impish little boy wearing dreads and a tatty school blazer who goes by the name of Peter (Yashua Mack). He insists on taking 3/4 of the Darling family to his Never Land where the ocean is guarded by a large bioluminescent sea creature named Mother, Peter can control the volcano (Mother’s spirit) with his mind and, most importantly, nobody grows up. Well, almost… mostly.

Films don’t often take seven years to complete and this production which was reportedly in constant flux, has a cast of non-acting children who had to be taught how to swim, engage in sword-play and leap from great heights, and all while shooting in 16mm film. In the years that followed Beasts of the Southern Wild, he and Dan Romer picked up awards for their Brimstone & Glory score and he served as executive producer on Burning Cane, never let it be said that Zeitlin isn’t an ambitious and unconventional filmmaker. Here, he co-writes the screenplay with his sister, Eliza Zeitlin (who also serves as production designer) and once again provides the music with regular collaborator Romer. This score will, in much the same way as Beasts… bring a smile to your face and swell to the heart. Full of melancholy string-plucking, triumphant horns and waltzes on speciality instruments like the dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy, marimba and glass harmonica. The music, once again, serving as the emotional core of the film around it.

The Battle for Mañana

Its pacing does feel a little awkward at times and it’s hard to imagine small children having the attention span to sit through a film clocking in at 112 minutes but it’s not overly wordy and there’s plenty to keep older children enthralled. The Hook origin story is beautifully done and suitably grim and while some have complained it’s too dark, I would submit the source material… (only with a The City of Lost Children and Lord of the Flies edge shot through a modest and chaotic Emir Kusturica-esque lens). In Zeitlin’s Never Land – filmed on the islands of Montserrat and Antigua – childhood adventure is entangled with trauma, the inevitability of death, an active volcano and the ravages of climate change.

“To grow up is a great adventure…”

There’s an element of spontaneity to the whole affair which works well combined with the naturalistic performances from the kids who are a delight to watch. Especially Devin France who gets to experience her awfully big adventure with spirit, and more than proves that a whole film can rest on her capable shoulders. Yashua Mack is the first child of colour to portray Peter on film (just prior to Jordan A. Nash soon to be seen in the upcoming Come Away) and the first Rastafarian. Hailing from Antigua, Mack belongs to the Nyabinghi order of Rastafari who have a spiritual connection to the Earth, live at one with the earth and nature and share an ethos of remaining youthful at heart. His Peter is wonderful, full of bravado and charm – it’s easy to see why he was cast, at just five, to play Pan.

Yashua Mack as Peter

Since its inception as a stage play in 1904 and publication in 1911 as Peter and Wendy, it feels like we get a new Peter Pan adaptation every couple of years so Zeitlin’s revisionist take on Barrie’s beloved fable is refreshing and emotionally fulfilling. Some elements may not always work but there’s plenty to appreciate and be moved by. Whether in its use of magical realism which manages to convey a raw, beautiful and unique sense of wonder (and peril) led by its captivating cast or in the nostalgic yearning for a mother – a theme which becomes far more poignant given the film’s pre-credits dedication – and, of course, that gorgeous folksy-lullaby score.

Devin France and Yashua Mack in the film WENDY. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

It seems apt that the children of a pair of folklorists would make their own version of Peter Pan as adults. The film isn’t as socially resonant as Beasts… yet Wendy in spite of its collaborative nature feels like a map of, self-professed ‘Lost Boy’, Zeitlin’s mind (a little unstructured, ragtag and beautifully sound-tracked). It’s just like our eponymous Darling states: “All children grow up but some, the wild ones, the ones with the light in their eye, escape.” This film is for all of those that did.

Wendy is out in UK and Irish cinemas on 13th August

Film Festival Review

Review: My Wonderful Wanda (Dir. Bettina Oberli, 2020)

East and West Europe clash in Bettina Oberli’s sly satire My Wonderful Wanda which was included in Glasgow Film Festival’s stellar line-up, and given special mention in the Nora Ephron Award category at Tribeca.

Wanda (Agnieszka Grochowska) arrives by coach from Poland – and does so at the start of each chapter of the film’s structure – clutching as much of her life as she can pack into two pieces of luggage. The most important parts, her two sons, are left behind and cared for by her parents while she earns a wage. She is employed by the Wegmeister-Gloor family (yes, really – translate it) and cares for patriarch Josef (André Jung) who has been left debilitated by a stroke.

His wife Elsa (Marthe Heller) and adult children Sophie (Birgit Minichmayr) and Gregi (Jacob Matschenz) are unwilling to lift him, place him on the commode chair or shower him, their lives either too full or too empty to truly care one way or another. Wanda does it all. Even when Manuela goes back to Portugal, Wanda is asked to take on extra cooking and cleaning. The Wegmeister-Gloors are far from poor with their stunning lakeside home that it makes the fact that she must barter for her wages all the more galling to watch.

Josef starts paying Wanda for sex as another way to supplement her income. Their business transaction satisfying both as his needs are met and she is able to send more money home. Almost predictably, she is then accused of stealing the money and her passport threatened with confiscation. Make no mistake, these are not likeable people but you will have to wait until the final few moments as to whether any of them are redeemable.

When Wanda falls pregnant by the ‘infertile’ Josef that’s when the fun really starts as panic and horror sets in and the realisation of what this may cost the family, both in monetary terms and to their prided reputation. There’s an element of schadenfreude as one watches white privilege implode in a drunken haze and Nancy Sinatra, a protection of assets and a taxidermy funeral (an art installation in the snow), while Wanda remains the taciturn and rational one. Choices are made but not by her – the poor tend not to have those – and Gregi, the youngest Wegmeister-Gloor, finally takes his creepy bird noises with him and flies the nest.

Oberli’s film is nuanced and empathetically shot – the family as microcosm – with its greens and blues symbolising all that is in nature, the façade beneath the picturesque, as well as the cash and the bloodline. Its tone is perfectly measured as it deftly comments on class, the immigrant experience, motherhood, family dynamics (including the multitude of human neuroses that comes with it) and legacy, however, does it with a sense of self-awareness and humour. The inclusion of the cow is genius – both as cast member and visual metaphor – and provides ever more light relief.

My Wonderful Wanda’s strength lies in its direction, screenplay, biting satire, and ensemble cast, with standout performances from Grochowska and Heller. Perhaps, we are all just prisoners of circumstance whether rich or poor.

Film Festival Review

Review: Apples (Dir. Christos Nikou, 2020)

We are introduced to the nameless protagonist of Apples [Mila], played by Aris Servetalis, in his apartment through a series of cuts (or polaroid snapshots) in his apartment: restlessly listening to the radio…staring impassively into space… banging his head against the doorframe before venturing out to buy the flowers himself much like the eponymous Mrs. Dalloway. Though there is no party in sight for Aris as he wanders aimlessly through the city and eventually falls fast asleep on a bus taking him from A to B. When the driver awakens him, Aris doesn’t recall where he should have alighted, his name or where he lives – his lack of identification only confirms it and he is packed off in an ambulance to the Disturbed Memory Department of the Neurological Hospital for evaluation.

From there, he is assigned a number (14842) and afforded a new life as an amnesiac. Sudden onset amnesia is not seen as unusual as the seemingly irreversible epidemic sweeps across a modern, yet strangely analogue Athens, with neither sight nor sound of a mobile device. All amnesiacs (at least those not claimed by family members) are given tape recorders and polaroid cameras. The cassette tapes containing prompts of how to manage their “new beginnings” and the cameras are to snap proof of how they spent their days; photos stored in albums for posterity.

Christos Nikou served as Yorgos Lanthimos’ AD on Dogtooth and it initially shows. His film – based on a screenplay he co-wrote with Stavros Raptis – does fit within the so-called Greek Weird Wave in which filmmakers and writers such as the likes of Panos H. Kontras, Lanthimos, Athina Rachel Angari, and Efthymis Filippou have given us some brilliantly strange pieces of work that have painted a unique, often ideological, versions of Greek society. Yet, while his predecessors liked the darker, mordant aspects of life, Nikou’s film is far more heartfelt and poignant.

Aris throughout plays it deadpan even when he meets fellow new beginner Anna (Sofia Georgovassili) and as he chomps his way through, roughly, an orchard. Servetalis is a combination of Daniel Day-Lewis and Buster Keaton, the line between bizarre and funny grows increasingly blurry as the film progresses, as to the linearity of the whole thing is anybody’s guess. The 4:3 aspect ratio harks back to the silent era and helps to further detach from reality – although the whole Athens-epidemic-as-narrative-device strikes close to home as we, like Aris, find a new weird normal – in our case remembering to smile with our eyes beneath the material which covers the rest of our face.

The film is a very quiet and wry allegory with several laugh-out-loud moments involving a Batman, and even a nod to an Outcast lyric. Its use of colour is gorgeous, the daylight palette tends to be muddy blues, greys and muted greens while the nights tend to be oranges and ochres much like the innards of a mouldy apple. The use of music is astute with all feeding into the theme of memory and remembrance: “Scarborough Fair”, “Seal It With A Kiss”, and “Let’s Twist Again” (although, this arguably has a dual meaning) – tenuous it may be but even “Ave Maria” mentions fruit!

Apples is a brilliant and absurdist rumination on loss, memory, identity and human connection. It ponders selective memory – the want to forget what’s in the memory bank, the fight to remember by heart and if there’s a difference, and what the hell did we do before the smart phone and documenting our days.

Apples will be available exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday 7th May.

Film Festival Review

Review: Truman + Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation (Dir. Lisa Immordino Vreeland, 2021)

“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what is made by the friends we choose” – Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote were two of the greatest writers of American Literature during the Twentieth Century – Pulitzer Prize-winning even in Williams’ case. They were also friends for over 40 years until their respective deaths in 1983 and 1984. Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s documentary gives an 86 minute window into this relationship, promising an intimate conversation and doesn’t waste a second.

Utilising archival footage, stills and photographs – beautiful ones courtesy of the Cecil Beaton and Richard Avedon collections amongst others – the film establishes the two men as singular subjects as well as through a dual portrait. The split screen of both being interviewed by David Frost (or Dick Cavett) albeit on separate shows is a brilliant touch especially given both are faced with a similar line of questioning in spite of their very apparent (or so this reviewer thought) differences. That’s the beauty of this film, it never presupposes the viewer’s prior knowledge – there is more than enough here to keep ardent fans happy while schooling those less-than-familiar minds. Unless mistaken, it does feel like there is slightly more meat on the bones in relation to Williams’ personal history, career, subsequent film adaptations, etcetera. however, this is not a complaint, he was the older of the two and seemed the more prolific.

The ‘conversation’ begins in 1940 when both men first meet and extends decades until their deaths in the 1980s, it is rendered here and stitched together between their respective correspondence, snippets of interviews as well as passages of seminal works, their great love stories, battles with addiction and personal tragedies. Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto’s voiceovers ‘as’ Truman and Tennessee respectively serve a purpose, however, can be at odds with the archival footage and detracts from an otherwise immersive experience. Neither quite nails the pitch and cadence of the eloquent Southern gents who had such distinctive timbre and speaking voices. That said, it is a brilliant piece of casting.

There is no denying that both TC and TW were supremely gifted, often troubled, men who helped shape the Southern Gothic literary genre and their work, in turn, gave some of the most memorable adaptations committed to film. Although to listen to them neither were all too keen. Capote felt betrayed after Marilyn Monroe – who he had always envisioned as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – was replaced by Audrey Hepburn, and Williams loathed what film censors would do to his plays. He hated that everything had to be intimated and could never be shown, only for the last ten minutes of the film would it become apparent, that, for example, Stanley had raped Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. It was the reason he fought so hard for artistic control of his work.

Their friendship was a complex one, lives often paralleling beyond the 13-year age gap or sheer coincidence – both had non-existent relationships with their fathers who they would compartmentalise, write out of their lives as well as their names – Truman at aged 9 and Tennessee at 18. They both struggled to accept their sexuality believing, somewhat devastatingly, that life would have served them better, or at the very least during childhood, had they been born girls. There were of course a multitude of differences, not least in relation to fame; one sought it unabashed and relentlessly while the other found it a “tedious bore”. One believed his most successful novel (In Cold Blood) was due to the fact that he didn’t appear anywhere in it while the other claimed to have only written the one autobiographical play (The Glass Menagerie).

Yet for all their unfaltering support of each other there were the petty jealousies, churlish goading and combative comments. Certainly, the description of Williams in Capote’s unfinished novel is less than kind but Immordino Vreeland steers her film in a more positive direction. There is enough pathos and poignancy in these frames which gives, not only a nostalgia hit, and a push to revisit their works but a real insight into their frank worldview, compulsions (of which writing was top of the list) and moments of real empathy. Although not new information, to actually hear Williams talk of his own self-loathing, and sister Rose’s ECT treatment is utterly heart-breaking.

Truman + Tennessee is an intimate and fascinating portrait of two behemoths of the written word; a dramatist and a writer (though neither descriptor is mutually exclusive) and definitely one for fans of Stevan Riley’s Listen to Me Marlon (2015) in which there is some attempt to demythologise a persona, or in this case two. These men – one a lover of Chekov the other of Moby Dick – butted heads, belittled and bitched about each other, often competitors as well as confidants, and if we’re to believe Truman Capote when he stated: “Friendship and love are the same thing,” then it’s safe to surmise from this documentary that they also loved each other madly.

Truman + Tennessee had its UK Premiere thanks to Dogwoof at the Glasgow Film Festival and is released on VoD on April 30th.

Film Festival Review

Review: The Old Ways (Dir. Christopher Alender, 2021)

GFF 2021 – FrightFest

After taking an assignment in Veracruz, Mexico Cristina (Brigitte Kali Canales) finds herself hooded and imprisoned in small cell. Despite begging to see her cousin Miranda (Andrea Cortés) and general protestations: “I’m an American… and a reporter” there she remains, shackled to the beautifully rendered and chalked wall, forced to ingest goat’s milk and pee in a bucket.

Keeping her ‘prisoner’ is local witch Luz (Julia Vera) and son Javi (Sal Lopez). Both are convinced that Cristina has picked up a demon that has hitched a ride on her soul following an illicit trip to the ruins of La Boca. As the days turn to night, Cristina tries to find ways to escape, however, soon she starts to feel that maybe she does ‘have it’ or something which is holding her hostage.

Exorcism films as a sub-genre are ten-a-penny and usually contain some white child/young woman losing the battle to find the devil within. Or there’s a haunting with a vengeful spirit/lost soul possessing a house or member of a family. Sometimes there are rites, rituals, a cassocked Priest, or perhaps a Rabbi, prayers, chants and holy water. It is refreshing therefore when a film tries to do something that little bit different with the well-worn tropes – Christopher Alender’s – making the leap from shorts and TV to his first feature – The Old Ways does just that (albeit with some old faithful). 

This is exorcism as repatriation. Cristina’s soul was up for grabs because she wasn’t quite fulfilled, living with trauma in a country she never quite belonged to, even if she didn’t realise it until now, drug addled and empty. She needs to commune with her forgotten heritage – one she was ripped from as a child – in order to heal and rid herself of the demon ‘Postekhi’. Her childhood trauma is never far from her mind revisiting her in flashbacks and nightly visits of a small boy.

The beauty of this film is its subtlety, it takes its time and doesn’t outstay its welcome which make the last fifteen/twenty minutes all the more forgiveable. There’s still fun to be had but it loses the nuance it worked so hard to build on and it is those moments which feel somewhat unnecessary. Joy-of-joys, however, the practical effects are great with the odd stomach churning moment, hair regurgitation is never pretty, and special mention goes to Luz’s make-up (courtesy of Josh and Sierra Russell); the cracking white face paint, the blood-red cross across the eyes and cataract lens is striking.

The cast of four play off each other brilliantly but it is Canales’ Cristina who is the standout. She doesn’t play her as a victim but survivor, fighting tooth and nail against what is or isn’t missing inside of her. This is less about restoration of a possessed soul – the snakes and milk symbols of renewal and rebirth – but more about reclamation of a heritage as a way of life and forging ahead. Forget the passive female protagonist bed-bound and helpless to prevent what’s happening, this one schools herself with a red leather bound book of demons (Jung’s manifesto of the same hue also detailed the recovery of a soul). There’s even humour with some amusing play-acting, bribery attempts, and the cell may be dotted in candles but there’s still an electric fan to help with the heat and humidity.

All-in-all The Old Ways is a smart and surprisingly subtle horror film. A really attractive looking feature which deftly goes beyond the expelling of demons, speaks to the migrant experience and embraces cultural significance (the Mariachi-instrumental of “La Bamba” is a nice touch). If you can take one thing from it it’s to never forget who you are or where you come from… and always invest in practical effects.

The Old Ways screens at GFF FrightFest from 5-8 March

Film Festival Review

Review: Jumbo (Dir. Zoé Wittock (2020)

Jeanne (Noémie Merlant) – age undetermined – lives with her maman Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot). They are the mother and daughter equivalent of chalk and cheese but both still wounded slightly since their respective husband and father left. We are never given the details but indications suggest it was acrimonious and he did a number on both of them. Margarette seeks companionship with whichever bloke she takes a fancy to from work behind a bar and Jeanne happily tinkers with her creations/ machinations behind closed doors whenever she isn’t working nights at an amusement park.

The anti-social nature of her job – rubbish collecting in solitude – long after all paying customers have vacated the premises suits her down to the ground. She is painfully shy, a little anxious with her cute Amélie-style-bob and the pervading silence that accompanies her. She prefers to keep her head down, mouth shut and cloak herself in her own social awkwardness and quiet. Jeanne has absolutely no idea of her own attraction to men, swamping herself in baggy clothes, bright blue headphones blocking out the outside world. Ops Manager Marc (Bastien Bouillon) falls for her anyway. Her mother, on the other hand is overly loud, a little brash and brimming with confidence – a “bundle of joy”. Their relationship is fractious, with the absent partner/parent the push and pull, he’s the insult slung between them when they want to hurt the other or lash out. Then Jeanne meets Jumbo.

Image copyright: WILLIAMK

With its red and white stripe design, the fairground ride aptly resembles a piece of rock and Jeanne finds safety in its six huge mechanical arms, choosing to sit astride its dormant structure and spit-clean ‘his’ multitude of raised red bulbs with her hanky. To the more closed mind, the electrics could be shorting but to Jeanne, it/he appears to communicate with her – and she does most of her chatting while with him. For all intents and purposes, he understands her and she gives herself willingly, even falls in love, their sex scene reminiscent of the feeding scene in Under the Skin, only with the sea of blackness giving way to bright white purity as she is dripped in black viscous lubricant. It’s not too much of a stretch to conflate the exhilarating screams of pleasure and excitement experienced during a body-flinging Waltzer, or the dizzying heights of a ride on a Big One.

What follows is an astonishing performance from Merlant who completely sells the emotional, for want of a better word, rollercoaster that is all-consuming love; the joy, jubilation, soul-destroying confusing and rejection (culminating in some excellent ugly-crying over baked goods). The inevitable clash between mother and daughter over the new partner ensues, the kink-shaming starts because people can be cruel about that which transgresses the norm, and immediately condemn what they don’t understand. That the love is never in doubt in Jeanne’s eyes is what makes this such a convincing little film.

Wittock depicts the very real Objectum-sexuality (OS) empathetically. There have been women who have vowed to love, honour and cherish the Berlin Wall, Eiffel Tower, a San Diego train station, and Le Pont du Diable respectively. Tracey Emin even married a stone in 2015. Yet it is Floridian Linda Ducharme who married Bruce in 2013 after a thirty-year courtship (Bruce is a Ferris Wheel) which is the suggested inspiration here and the ‘true story’ checked in the opening credits.

Image copyright: WILLIAMK

While Jumbo may start out more than a little sci-fi thanks mainly to Thomas Buelen’s cinematography and the use of neon lights, and synthy-buzzes on Thomas Roussel’s soundtrack, it is successful in making the switch from the surreal to a charming offbeat love story (as much about Margarette and Jeanne as Jeanne and Jumbo). The ending which initially feels rather abrupt is lovely and joyous – how else could you end a film about love, intimacy and connection? Perhaps it lands differently mid-pandemic having been locked away from people we would normally be able to touch and adore freely but whatever your mind set, love is love no matter the form it takes.

Jumbo is in UK and Irish cinemas from 9th July


Review: Body of Water (Dir. Lucy Brydon, 2020)

Nothing quite brings a family together – or tears it apart – like a wedding. At least that’s the theory. For war photographer Stephanie (Sian Brooke), she must contend with organising a Hen party, writing a speech, attend dress fittings (complete with unhelpful comments like, “it’d probably look better on some curves”) and repair relationships with her teenage daughter Pearl (Fabienne Piolini-Castle) and mother/bride-to-be Susan (Amanda Burton). All of this while navigating getting well following several months of supervised showers, weigh-ins, eating plans and therapy in an inpatient treatment facility for an eating disorder.

Initially, interactions are overly polite and awkward – strained, fractious and as diminishing as Stephanie’s frame swamped in layers of clothing and over-sized hoodies. The tension palpable. Even more so at mealtimes when Stephanie is sat alone at the dinner table, a glass of water to hand to wash down the food or to fill her up so she doesn’t have to eat more. Long takes are utilised in these moments which only add to her struggle and isolation as she attempts bite after bite, hoping that an apple won’t defeat her. It is excruciating to watch.

The performances are all excellent, collectively working well together while creating three fully realised characters and a convincing family unit. Burton’s Susan is throwing herself into wedding preparation while trying to keep Stephanie, her illness and Pearl somewhat at arm’s length. She’s the authoritarian guardian of both her daughter and granddaughter having had to raise Pearl for much of her mother’s treatment – seven months at a time and on four separate occasions. Her impending nuptials are desperately important, not just for the significant commitment it celebrates but she’s hoping (or deluding herself) that it will be free from anorexia’s grasp.

Piolini-Castle perfectly encapsulates the teenage angst of Pearl – bouncing from apathy to anger, and aggression, flirting with rebellion as she sneaks out of the house using inappropriate sexual entanglements as a means of distraction. At its core, however, this is Brooke’s film. Her performance is powerful, subtle and complex. There’s a delicacy, a fragility which is at odds with the character’s tenacity and strength. She’s trying to be a good mother (and daughter) but illness has a grip on her, it won’t let her go and she’s tired of fighting it.

There are few men onscreen. There’s no mention of either Stephanie or Pearl’s father(s) – leaving us to draw our own conclusions and Stephanie’s Caseworker Shaun (Nick Blood) doesn’t paint a particularly positive picture of his sex or the social care system.

The term ‘eating disorder’ never quite communicates the severity of the mental illness that affects both men and women (3/4 tend to be the latter) and has the highest fatality rate, yet is the hardest to treat. It is not a subject matter new on film but writer-director Lucy Brydon’s BBC-backed drama seeks to reframe the narrative that is most prevalent (though still bearing a white protagonist). There is no pre-pubescent gymnast or ballet dancer whose goal-orientated weight loss is taken too far (and overcome through puberty) but an adult woman who is battling it and there is no trigger. We don’t know how, why or when it started for Stephanie, if it is psychological, sociological or genetic (or all of the above). It just is. Which makes the film all the more powerful for it.

Brydon makes the most of the 95 minute runtime, utilising space (or in Stephanie’s case limiting it) intuitively and Darran Bragg’s cinematography is captured through an almost continuously moving camera – sometimes slow and languid, other times a not-so-steady-cam, continuing the water theme – the colour palette adding to the muted tone with a mise-en-scène awash with blues, greens and greys. It’s a perfect metaphor for a lot of things but it encapsulates Stephanie’s struggle so perfectly, and in those moments when old habits creep in and threaten her recovery the sound design distorts so the audience is briefly under water with her, coupled with Rory Attwell’s atonal score.

Body of Water is an impressive debut, however, it is by no means an easy watch. Yet, it manages to convey some of the difficulties and psychological problems anorexia can present and how it can engulf sufferers and their families alike, all without judgement, stigma or fetishising the female body. This is a sensitively made and beautifully performed British drama that does well to depict the horrors of an illness, and questions whether true recovery actually exists for those who continue to shrink themselves to fit the world.