Review: Body of Water

Written and directed by Lucy Brydon, a woman with an eating disorder tries to balance her relationship with her mother and her teenage daughter. Starring: Siân Brooke, Amanda Burton, Fabienne Piolini-Castle, Nick Blood, Kazia Pelka, Adeyinka Akinrinade and Anna Devlin.

Whenever you see depictions of eating disorders in the media they’re nearly all of very young women, typically aged around 14-16, so in telling this story from the perspective of a mother, Brydon is already widening the perspective to expose how more widespread and persistent that it is. It’s easy to see that the film’s overall intention is to show the harsh reality of this affliction, it comes through not only in the writing but especially so in Brydon’s direction. She takes a very stark tone and approaches the subject in a way to utilise discomfort, her shots linger, they push the boundary to actively make you want to look away. It is an effective style that creates a cruel, honest reality but it’s more successful with certain scenes than others, and while it is supported by some stellar cinematography (by Darran Bragg), it can come across as exceedingly cold and removed from the dramatic elements of the story.

The writing hits a lot of familiar themes when dealing with stories involving different types of addiction, especially in its exploration of how it affects the next generation, but it’s a little too familiar and a lot of Pearl’s (Piolini-Castle) interactions and behaviours feel stereotypical. It’s a battle between treading new ground and re-hashing some of what’s come before and the final tally results in a worthwhile story without a lasting impression. There are some interesting elements that the story introduces in the background, particularly Susan’s (Burton) alcoholism, the choice to have her with a drink in almost every scene and subtly bringing through implications of how Stephanie’s (Brooke) battle with her eating disorder has impacted her mother. As well as touching upon the affects of social media and online presence upon body image and how it can create a toxic environment of encouragement to remain damagingly thin. However, there are also issues that are brought through much more overtly and yet are never really explored fully, directly spoken about or resolved which is slightly disappointing.

Although what does make an impression is the performances, Siân Brooke has taken the challenge of a very physically and emotionally demanding role steadily in her stride, she’s an exceptional actress who hopefully will receive more lead roles to show this level of talent. There’s no question to the convincing quality of her performance, she brings the vulnerability, strain and weakness of Stephanie through strongly. Amanda Burton is similarly excellent, it’s a very different role but it explores another element of mental health and familial struggle which she brings through very well, and she’s a key factor in the more dramatic vein of this story. Fabienne Piolini-Castle gives a solid performance but it is somewhat limited by that very familiar nature to her character arc.

Body of Water is a harsh, honest and unforgiving portrayal of eating disorders and the impact they have on families. It very admirably opens up the conversation to show a more realistic angle on how the disorder persists and returns, creating a constant battle that bears down upon its victim. The style is stark and cold, it isn’t really trying to focus on the family drama, instead the bleak existence of anorexia and that will work more for some people than others. There are a few loose threads but it’s undeniably a story worth telling and Brydon impressively wasn’t afraid to keep to the harsh truth.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

On digital and DVD 11th January

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