Directed by Marnie Baxter and written by star April Kelley, maintaining friendships in your twenties is tricky, juggling careers, romance and the dread of turning 30. Lex, Gracie, Beca, Kat, and Joy reunite to pay tribute to a friend, tensions quickly rise as tipsy turns to drunk and grief takes hold of those left behind. Also starring: Taj Atwal, Sara Huxley, Tilly Keeper and Adelle Leonce.
Even in 2022 there’s still a strive for truly modern representations of women in media, too often portrayals falling prey to cliches and stereotypes but Do This For Me is perfectly relatable and realistic. It beautifully captures the many sides of women, and especially how more of those are brought out with some liquid courage. It breaks away the old preconception that just because a woman has herself dolled up on the outside, doesn’t mean she has everything together on the inside. That’s not the only preconception it tackles, it also acknowledges the fact that loss is never the same, it’s a different experience for every person and each individual needs to deal with it in the way that’s best for them.
Handling that sensitive topic is one of the big strengths of Do This For Me, it doesn’t attempt to drape the film entirely in sadness, it lingers in the background while you get to know these women before coming to forefront. It’s extremely well done both by Marnie Baxter’s direction and April Kelley’s writing, it gives you all the tools to put the larger picture together rather than purely throwing it at you. The tone of Kelley’s writing is bittersweet and empathetic, while Baxter’s direction feels sharp, creating a smart balance of movement and stillness. Favouring a use of close-ups which nicely enhances the emotion of the story, there’s also a superb use of the handheld which brings that movement through subtly, and feeds into the touch of volatility that the story grows. The chosen location also pushes things further, it’s very modern and open, both allowing a good amount of space while never being able to get too far from the characters.
At its heart, this film is all about mental health and it’s a relentlessly important topic. It traverses both the importance of having people you can rely on, and that even when you do your best to help others, some people sadly just can’t see another way out. In turn that then touches upon another poignant element, which is the people left behind and their struggle with blaming themselves. Again it demonstrates the importance of having support, who can help you come to terms with the loss. All of which is handled with subtlety and sympathy, it’s a story told in a grounded way, it brings out that strong emotion when it needs to but doesn’t overwhelm things.
There’s undeniably a great deal of emotion at work within these 19-minutes and all of it is compelling, relatable and moving thanks to the stellar cast at work. Even though it’s a fairly full card dealing with five key characters in a short amount of time, each actress manages to bring individual personality and characteristics to their portrayal. An element which is also achieved by the writing and editing’s balance of giving each character enough time to establish themselves.
April Kelley brings a confident, tough and cheery exterior hiding the vulnerability beneath. Sara Huxley hits a classic tone of being overly defensive in a moment of feeling weak, emotional or inferior. Taj Atwal achieves some interesting notes of being in a waystation of life, entering into something new, making you feel intensely vulnerable and anxious. Adelle Leonce touches upon the grateful feeling of being accepted into a group of friends, giving you a support system you didn’t have before. Lastly, Tilly Keeper identifies the imposter-syndrome like feel of everyone assuming you have everything together, when you’re just as much of a mess as they are.
Do This For Me is a touching story of female friendship and mental health. Marnie Baxter and April Kelley both display a deft hand at bringing a relatable, modern and subtle style to the film. The casting is excellent, they all give strong performances and do a brilliant job of representing women with different personalities and the individual ways that they relate to one another. It’s well written, directed, acted and creates an intensely sympathetic and moving portrayal of loss and friendship.
Make sure when you watch that you also stick around for the credits, to enjoy the special track made for the film, written by Rozzi and Son of the Sea’s Dylan Holloway, currently available on Spotify and YouTube, released on 30 March to highlight World Bipolar Day.