Body of Water, the directorial debut from Lucy Brydon, is a poignant and personal tale that reframes the way we think about eating disorders and the ways any addiction can tear a family apart. Emotionally weighty and driven fully by its lead, Brydon provides a bold voice to issues that many have long been taught to keep hidden.
Stephanie (Sian Brooke) has been battling with anorexia all her life, now, as she is leaving a care facility for people with eating disorders, she is forced to confront the problems in her relationships with both her mother Susan (Amanda Burton) and teenage daughter Pearl (Fabienne Piolini-Castle). Back at home where her mother is about to get married and her daughter is struggling with her own issues, Stephanie’s road to recovery seems reliant on these motherly relationships, if they can learn how to reconnect with one another.
Body of Water is a challenging watch at times as Brydon is keen not to skip on any meaty or taxing exploration of the far-reaching effects of anorexia to keep the plot moving. In fact, it’s fair to say that this is a very meditative film, often settling into uncomfortable silences and drawn-out moments as characters struggle to find the right thing to say. The moments of quietness are perhaps as important as those where the music, composed by Rory Attwell, plays. Speaking to us, Brydon spoke about the natural way she and sound designer Carine Koleiat decided to dial up the noises of bodies and eating in a way to portray the sheer loneliness of the illness.
Anchored by an utterly absorbing Brooke, the emotional threads between the family, their respective present worries, and their implied complicated past, come together in a heightened sense of realism. Stephanie is a character who is in equal amounts strong and fragile, determined to fight her illness but not immune to the allure of past habits. It is more than just a physical transformation that Brooke goes on, and Brydon allows her to fully inhabit her character’s struggles, contradictions, and messy humanness.
The care and consideration Brydon has for her subject matter is evident throughout the film, approaching it with a delicate hand. Recasting a topic such as eating disorders takes a sensitive approach which Byrdon achieves; her assured control over tone and emotion allows for a normalising of anorexia as much more than just a teenage phase without any patronising moralising. Hers is a beautifully crafted script that is brought to life through an assured control of sound and screen. And throughout it all, the visual repetitions of water -whether feet on pebbles inching towards the ocean, cups of water being drunk before a meal, or the pool that marks Pearl’s boundaries with her mother- signal the film’s final, emotional moment.
Dir: Lucy Brydon
Scr: Lucy Brydon
Cast: Sian Brooke, Amanda Burton, Fabienne Piolini-Castle, Nick Blood
Prd: Dan Cleland, Jeannette Sutton
DOP: Darran Bragg
Music: Rory Attwell
Run time: 92 minutes
Body of Water is out on digital now.