Well Rounded allows fat women to speak for themselves rather than be spoken for. A documentary grounded in reality as opposed to statistics, the film is full of women from a range of professions and backgrounds – from dancer to comedian to model and stylist -speaking about their experiences. The stories the women tell of their bodies are more than just about their size or the spaces they take up, but about how their bodies relate to their race, sexuality, and life experiences. Well Rounded reminds us that there isn’t only one way to be fat.
Well Rounded blends compelling talking heads with beautiful animations by Alexandra Hohner. Setting it apart from other documentaries, the animation is not only unique but extremely watchable. The art adds to the documentary’s overall positive nature; the bodies are painted as soft, celestial and godlike rather than uncomfortable, bulky, or wearing tight clothes.
Well Rounded not only presents individual experiences of fatness, but it also looks at how size works within society. Exploring fatness from a medical perspective, Dr Janet Tomiyama and Dr Jenny Ellison offer up different explanations and analyses of where fatphobia comes from in society. Dr Jenny concludes that, ultimately, fat people are a moving target, and the reasons for fatphobia are constantly evolving with society’s ideas of the perfect body. To be fat is currently viewed by society as a lack of self-control. However, the documentary seeks to show that weight is more of a complex issue.
Well Rounded is an approachable and comforting take on what it means to be a plus-size woman in society. The film doesn’t stick to the ‘big is beautiful’ philosophy, which sometimes ignores any negative connotations of being overweight. Instead, there is a certain and appropriate level of acceptance of being big; fatness is celebrated, but not to a patronising level. Big women do not need to be told they are beautiful—we already know we are!
Refreshingly, Well Rounded does not mention food; there are no conversations about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food choices. It is about larger people, not just larger bodies. Rather, the film looks at the importance of health markers, rejecting that size is the primary indicator of wellness. Perhaps in an effort to maintain a positive message about being fat or to maintain the importance of the individual throughout the documentary, the film seems to ignore that society as a whole has become heavier. It’s a shame as it wouldn’t have been harmful to explore the reasons for this; there are plenty of explanations surrounding trends that take the blame away from the individual.
Despite Well Rounded presenting a diverse cast, this intersectionality appears to be through nature rather than by design. It appears at times as though the documentary did not set out to be a queer representation of fat people, but something that was chosen to be showcased as the documentary progressed. There was a real opportunity to explore how fatness is perceived in the LGBTQ+ community or what it means to be an overweight queer woman. Although these issues were humorously touched upon by Candy Palmater, the documentary sadly failed to deliver a more streamlined queer narrative.
All in all, Well Rounded is a truly original documentary. It showcases voices and stories that are often either ignored or presented negatively. Despite weight being a niche and personal topic, this is a documentary to be watched by everyone—whether you see yourself in these women and seek comfort in their voices or you don’t. Well Rounded emphasises that fat people exist and deserve not to be treated any differently because of their size.
Dir: Shana Myara
Cast: Jenny Ellison, Ivory, Lydia Okello, Candy Palmater, Janet Tomiyama, Joanne Tsung
DoP: Nico Stagias
Music: Sam Davidson
Running time: 61 minutes
Well Rounded will screen as part of the 2021 BFI Flare Festival from March 17-28th, 2021