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Stephanie Daley | Review

What one wants, the other doesn’t

Brougher digs deep into individual burden and the female psychosis.

Droplets of blood staining the snow evokes thoughts of the school ski trip from hell, but this elegantly crafted tale told by way of the flashback form is morally engaged in getting to the source and inside the emotional unbalance that surrounds the problematic, rather than resting on suppositions and wrong first impressions. Writer-director Hilary Brougher’s long-awaited, work-shopped project features the psychological repercussions of adultery, religious backlash and an unwanted teen pregnancy – items that will assure that only a distributor with enough nerve will want to take on such a worthy project for theatrical release. Stephanie Daley is one of the rare judicial system inquiries worth courting.

At first glance, this looks to be about generational differences and possible animosity between an under privileged adult and an over privileged young adult. This initial impression subsides fairly quickly once the tale starts focalizing on the parallel plights and the unhealed emotional old wounds. The narrative thematically and morally embedded notions of birth and death with the common trait here being the pro-choice and pro-life debate, which thankfully the film cares not to side with either or. Especially heart-wrenching is once the film digs through the layers displaying the similarities between the two head strong, emotionally-shattered dual female protagonists that will empathically grind audiences down to a halt.

Fine performances that cometh from both actresses, in Swinton we find a casting choice that perhaps goes against her type, but here she flourishes showing that head strong women who’ve lost a child are still able to succumb to old wounds from the past while Tamblyn, who might be known as yet another face in a sea of teen actress’s category will give viewers a reason to take notice. Surely audiences will be enamored by the details that make the case so extreme, Tamblyn’s teenage mistake episodes sometimes come across as bad television dramatization, but thankfully the screenplay is void of easy characterization. Rather than comprise her original screenplay by showing cause and reaction, who is at fault and who is to blame, Brougher gives the tale enough headroom to include the draining effects of the emotional burden.

Filmgoers that have the chance to experience this will be deeply rewarded by the acting, compensated for the pacing by the film’s shell-shocking climax and for those who are paying attention: the lovely transitions in color. Earth tones and some icy blue tints provides traces for the character’s isolation from their surroundings and their emotional state but it also demonstrates the emergence of HD technology beautifully shot by David Morrison. Stephanie Daley is a hard film to watch, but once absorbed it’s a harder not to watch it.

January 25th – Sundance 2006.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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