Body of Water
After seven months of treatment for anorexia, Stephanie (Sian Brooke) struggles to rebuild her life, particularly her strained relationships with her oblivious mother (Amanda Burton) and estranged daughter (Fabienne Piolini-Castle). First-time filmmaker Lucy Brydon makes a bold choice in making her protagonist an adult woman, allowing Body of Water to reach beyond much of the shallow discourse around eating orders, considering the effects not just on Stephanie’s body but also her less than supportive family. The result is a cold, almost dispassionate look at eating disorders that seems intent on punishing its central character.
Naturally depressing without feeling particularly illuminating, Body of Water has a habit of forcing the drama instead of letting it unfold naturally, and this proves a difficult habit to break. Very much a BBC film, the focus is on issues over characters, most of whom are as unlikeable as their behaviour is unlikely. Where the subject matter calls for subtlety and sensitivity, Brydon opts for occasionally extreme plot developments between characters who act selfishly throughout the drama. Their interactions are stilted and the dialogue unnatural, with Stephanie espousing clichés about freedom that fail to get under the character’s skin.
Brooke’s performance transcends the script’s shortcomings, conveying pain and anger through the smallest of facial expressions and committing completely to the physical demands of the role. A scene in which Stephanie switches from scrolling through “thinspiration” pictures on a pro-ana blog to looking at war photography, which had once been her career, could have evoked a striking allegory had it been more sensitively handled. Brydon’s intentions are commendable but her execution suffers from heavy-handedness and crass characterisation. The effect is a film much like its characters: well-meaning but struggling to express itself.
Body of Water is released nationwide on 16th October 2020.
Watch the trailer for Body of Water here: