War photographer Stephanie (Sian Brooke) leaves a clinic after a lengthy stay to battle chronic anorexia. Hoping for a fresh start when she gets home, Stephanie finds her teenage daughter Pearl (Fabienne Piolini-Castle) angry and full of resentment, and her mother Susan (Amanda Burton) pre-occupied with her upcoming wedding. With only nurse Shaun (Nick Blood) to lean on, Stephanie struggles to adapt to normal life as she tries to connect with her family, and put her eating disorder behind her.
‘Body of Water’ is the directorial debut of Lucy Brydon and it’s inspired by her own struggle with eating disorders. The film is a bold but sensitive piece of work that exposes the reality of an adult woman battling a disease that is so often dismissed as just something teenage girls grow out of. Brydon is, at times, brutally realistic about Stephanie’s struggle and she doesn’t sugar coat what you see on the screen.
Stephanie’s anorexia has taken control of her life but it’s also impacted on the lives of her daughter and her mother too. Pearl tries to distance herself from her mother, refusing to let her see her take part in a swimming competition while Susan is supportive to an extent but also deeply frustrated with her daughter’s eating disorder. The more her family pushes her away, the closer Stephanie gets to relapsing and it’s quite frankly heartbreaking to watch.
Sian Brooke, who is excellent as Stephanie, lost weight specifically for this role and Brydon captures every bone protruding from Brooke’s frail body throughout the film. The camerawork really brings home just how horrendous this disease is. There’s one scene that takes place towards the end of the film involving Susan and Stephanie, and it was both humiliating and shocking. I don’t want to reveal what it entails but in that single scene you can see the conflict between understanding and frustration for Susan.
The supporting cast is excellent too. Fabienne Piolini-Castle’s angry Pearl is sympathetic despite her behaviour. You can see the impact of feeling like she’s lost her mother and how that sends her into dangerous territory. Similarly Amanda Burton’s portrayal of Susan veers between sympathetic and dismissive, behaviour that makes Stephanie feel as lost with her family as she did in a clinic.
‘Body of Water’ is a powerful film but it’s by no means an easy watch. Stephanie’s struggle feels very real and there’s a real feeling throughout that a happy ending is nowhere in sight. That may sound a little bleak but actually it’s refreshing to see someone tackle a subject like this head on. The simple fact is those that suffer from anorexia do have a long path to recovery and not all of them make it.
Cast: Sian Brooke, Amanda Burton, Fabienne Piolini-Castle, Nick Blood Director: Lucy Brydon Writer: Lucy Brydon Certificate: 15 Duration: 95 mins Released by: Verve Pictures Release date: 16th October 2020