Body of Water review: ‘A powerful and hard-hitting tale of a struggle with anorexia’

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Some films will always be hard to watch but will nonetheless be very necessary.

First-time feature director Lucy Brydon utilised her own experiences and those of other eating disorder patients to tell the story of Stephanie (Sian Brooke), a war photographer who has just been released from a specialist treatment facility far away from her home.

Attempting to return to normality, Stephanie finds conflict with her teenage daughter Pearl (Fabienne Piolini-Castle), who is full of resentment over her mother's absences.

Meanwhile, Stephanie's mother Susan ( Amanda Burton ) is supporting her but is distracted by planning her upcoming nuptials to partner Annette (Kazia Pelka).

As Stephanie tries to thrust herself into a new routine and being there for her loved ones, she is forced to face up to her continued anxieties and attempt to hold herself together without falling back into her dangerous rituals.

(Image: VERVE PICTURES)

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There is a stark rawness and troubling gravity to Brydon's filmmaking that grounds the picture in the committed performance of Sian Brooke, who offers a vulnerable character burning with fear but also a determination to better herself.

The severely cropped pixie haircut and Brooke's lean physique only further add to the sense of reality in the film as we see Stephanie obsesses over her bodily appearance and feel palpable disgust at eating food. The sound design is perfectly judged as Stephanie forces herself to eat a small amount of food and every bite feels like a small mountain to climb.

(Image: VERVE PICTURES)

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The film also finds horror in mundane activities like trips to the supermarket, where Stephanie is assaulted by advertising surrounding slimmer bodies, while she also surfs dangerous pro-anorexia website communities to observe and show off underweight bodies.

The emotional turmoil caused to the people around her is also palpably rendered, particularly in the inter-generational relationships with her mother and daughter. Burton in particular offers a complex turn as Susan who also slowly releases her own resentment and weariness with her daughter's condition.

(Image: VERVE PICTURES)

(Image: VERVE PICTURES)

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The is a subplot involving a love triangle with a visiting former nurse of Stephanie's at the treatment centre that feels a tad too melodramatic for the grim realism shown elsewhere, but it still does work to create a further gulf between Stephanie and Pearl, who is ably portrayed in an aggravated turn by Piolini-Castle.

Events reach an uncomfortable climax as tensions between Stephanie and her family boil over at Susan's wedding in incredibly uncomfortable scenes, which only leave the film's dark denouement feeling all the more inevitable.

(Image: VERVE PICTURES)

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Some may find Body of Water unrelentingly grim and in many ways it is and the film is a tough watch, but it also feels vital as it is rare to see a portrayal of the continued challenges of trying to live with mental illnesses rather than just portraying the onset of such disorders.

Ultimately, Body of Water is a moving piece of British cinema that proves Scottish director Lucy Brydon is a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

Verdict

Body of Water is a powerful and hard-hitting tale of a struggle with anorexia which shows the talent of first-time feature director Lucy Brydon and a gripping performance from Sian Brooke.

Body of Water is out now in UK cinemas and on digital.

If you have been affected by the content of Body of Water and this discussion and wish to seek advice on eating disorders, visit charity website Beat Eating Disorders or call their helpline on 0808 801 0677.

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