Sad but hopeful tale of tangled emotions
The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open is a story well worth watching about two First Nations women living in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
Rosie, played by Violet Nelson, is pregnant and lives in a complicated and abusive situation with her boyfriend. Aila, played by Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, is contemplating getting pregnant and has a less complicated life than Rosie. The two meet on a street as Rosie is walking barefoot in grey, cold Vancouver weather and her boyfriend is on the opposite corner screaming violently at her; Rosie is physically bruised and scarred.
Similar to the film Roma (2018), co-writers/directors Kathleen Hepburn and Tailfeathers bring the viewer into the emotional turmoil of the characters and their lives. We catch a glimpse of the harsh lifestyle in the inner city of Vancouver with a focus on the women of First Nations ancestry and their struggle to deal with emotional and physical abuse, and their distrust of the social bureaucracy they need to survive.
The relationship between the two female lead characters is symbiotic in a way that they develop a need to learn from each other. Aila is struggling to find her identity as a mother and Rosie is struggling with preserving her motherhood within a tough environment. Together they find strength in dealing with their issues and facing their inner struggles.
There are moments of warmth and humour. As the story progresses, Rosie opens up and begins to reveal her character, and in a way her innocence and naivety of life.
I very much enjoyed the powerful camera work and lighting the directors brought to their lens. The closeups of the camera restricted our view of an environment we wanted to see more of. It limited our insight into the inner city of drugs and poverty and increased our sense of danger that lurked around. The point of view of the camera was complemented by the harsh lighting, grainy and bleak, that brought out the reality of their surroundings and human activity.
Technically this film was well made and the story (even though at times was slow-paced) was focused and well told. As easy as it might have been for the filmmakers to stay in the depressed world of human struggles in a harsh environment, they gave us, the viewer, a glimmer of hope that things will be okay.
For these reasons, and because this was a story worth sharing, I give the film three out of five tugboats.
The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open plays during the Powell River Film Festival (February 7 to 16) at 7 pm on Friday, February 14, and 1:30 pm on Saturday, February 15, at the Patricia Theatre. Run time is 105 minutes.
For more information, go to prfilmfestival.com.
Stephen J. Miller is a producer and creative writer in feature films and television, and past owner of repertoire movie theatres.