2020 has been crap. We all know this, we are reminded every day and as time passes, it gets even more rubbish. But out of the struggles has come reflection, thoughtfulness, and compassion – something we need more of these days. And while many of the films were made months before the lockdown periods, they have proven timely in their examination of human behaviours, interactions, and issues we continue to face every day. Lucy Brydon‘s touching, perceptive Body of Water is the latest of this cluster of films, this time looking at the impact of anorexia on a family.
The film focuses on Stephanie (Sian Brooke), a 30-something woman who we are introduced to as she completes her final day at a treatment facility where she has been staying for several months. Heading home, she is met by her mother (Amanda Burton) who is still in denial about her daughter’s condition even after this latest stint. Stephanie begins her first steps back in society by heading back to her home, sticking to her regimes, and reconnecting with her teenage daughter Pearl (Fabienne Piolini-Castle) who has lost her way in the months she was away.
Bluntly, Body of Water is a tough watch for a few reasons, not least its central story about anorexia and the impact it has on not just Stephanie and her own life but on those around her. But that’s the point that Brydon is trying to make here: there is no skating around the devastation it can cause. There are no easy fixes, and while it feels over-dramatic at times – more akin to a television drama than a feature – Brydon’s handles the material with a delicacy and thoughtfulness that make up for its shortfalls. It is beautifully photographed, too, by Darran Bragg with the seaside town it is set in feeling vibrant and colourful while juxtaposed with the murkier surroundings elsewhere, whilst Rory Atwell’s slight yet powerful score matches it beautifully.
Then, of course, there’s the stellar central performance from Brooke who is quite simply astounding as Stephanie. Much will be made about her weight loss and her “method” approach but that would devalue the performance, which is rich with a passion and anger that is also supremely moving. Burton and Piolini-Castle, too, excel and round out a brilliant ensemble for a film that while feeling a little too slight in places marks a stellar new British filmmaking talent and secures Brooke a place in the year’s top performances