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July 02, 2007

Stephanie Daley

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Hilary Brougher - 2006
Regent Releasing 35mm Film

More than the old definition of a women's film, that is to say a film primarily about women or a woman, Stephanie Daley, made me feel more self conscious about being a man observing, what seemed to me, some of the most private expressions of being a woman. This gender distinction was most keenly felt during the scene when Amber Tamblyn, as teenage Stephanie, realizes with a certain amount of pain and horror, that she was pregnant and finds herself expelling the fetus from her body. More so than the quasi-pornographic musings of Catherine Breillat, Hilary Brougher made me feel a greater sense of the physical and emotional differences of being a woman.

Stephanie Daley is an independent film in the truest sense of that term. After her visit to Narnia, Tilda Swinton, who also served as Executive Producer, is back in familiar territory, playing Lydie, the pregnant forensic psychologist trying to establish the truth about Stephanie's pregnancy and state of mind. Not having watch her previous, more family friendly work, this was my first time seeing Amber Tamblyn. By turns callow, shy and vulnerable, Tamblyn is able to elicit sympathy for a part that some may find troubling. Timothy Hutton, almost shockingly mature looking, lends support as Swinton's husband.

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Much of the film is told in flashback with Stephanie telling about the events from when she initially was impregnated, through the time when she was found bleeding on a ski slope. While the narrative is about one woman trying to establish the truth about the other, the film is also about the truth and lies told to ourselves and others. Stephanie's pregnancy is counter pointed with Tilda's current pregnant state, and the fact of a previous stillbirth. More than most films, Stephanie Daley chronicles the emotional upheaval experienced by one woman, considered to be high risk because of her age. Lydie's situation makes one question her particular objectivity towards Stephanie, the tension between one woman who might not be able to give birth even though she wants to against the young woman who seems to have chosen not to have a baby.

Gender difference in viewing the world is also presented in a scene at Stephanie's high school. Another female student questions one of the plot points of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. A young male teacher intimidates the young woman to tears with his assertion that Reverend Dimmesdale's dilemma, his relationship with God is the most important part of Hawthorne's story. While not wearing a large red letter, Stephanie finds herself becoming something of an outcast in her small town.

Stephanie Daley is in part about the treacherous lives of teenagers, in particular, teenage girls. Without being judgmental about any of the characters, the film also takes a queue from Hawthorne in being about faith, and how that translates into the relationships people have with each other. In turn, the two women learn how to suspend judgment on each other, allowing for a deeper connection to bond them.

Posted by peter at July 2, 2007 10:22 AM

Comments

Well I have certainly have my curiousity piqued by this one... I know a lot about being a woman but not so much about how that can be presented differently on the screen. This one looks like a must see for me.

Posted by: lumena at July 5, 2007 11:03 AM

I love this film!

Posted by: jelly at August 16, 2008 10:41 AM