Body of Water explores the impact of an eating disorder on a multigenerational family. Stephanie (Sian Brooke) returns from a treatment centre for her illness with the hopes of reconnecting with both her mother and her teenage daughter.
Whilst this is a film about someone trying to recover from an eating disorder, this is not a film about an eating disorder. Instead, it is the family dynamics that are front and centre. Stephanie’s relationship with her mother (Amanda Burton) flits between caring, controlling and dismissive without ever missing a beat. I saw various shades of my own relationship with my mother, despite having almost no similarities with the characters or situation. Director Lucy Brydon has managed to coax out a relationship that feels so real, you can’t help but feel the weight of disappointment on both of their shoulders. Throughout the film, she hits on themes of loneliness and isolation, and even scenes shared between these two women highlight how alone you can be, even with other people.
Likewise, Stephanie has a complex relationship with teen daughter Pearl (Fabienne Piolini- Castle) who whilst living with her grandmother has started to go off the rails – partying, seeing older men, drug-taking. Stephanie struggles to find her place in Pearl’s life, floundering between strict disciplinarian and party pal which at times leads to some questionable choices and uncomfortable situations.
There are occasional moments within the film’s script where it starts to veer into Sunday night drama territory – subplots involving Stephanie’s recovery nurse feel uncomfortable and at times unrealistic – but it manages to pull itself back with scenes of quiet, lonely introspection and raw group therapy sessions.
Brydon has created a quiet and melancholy film, and whilst family feels the main focus, she’s able to highlight and amplify the loneliness eating disorders cause. Using a variety of daring camera shots and impressive use of sound, she uses scenes of eating and occasional scenes of self-harm to highlight how Stephanie is or isn’t coping. Various scenes at her dining table stand out as masterful and will linger in your mind long after. Filming panic attacks or breakdowns can often veer into the cliched, but under Brydon’s careful and tender direction it feels fluid and natural.
Body of Water will be released in UK cinemas and on digital on 16th October.