Veteran Wardrobe/Costume Supervisor Melanie Oates (Little Dog, Frontier, Closet Monster) steps behind the camera for her feature film debut as Director with Body and Bones. Shot in Newfoundland- between “big city” St John’s and small-town Witless Bay – Body and Bones centers on the rudderless actions of a still-grieving Tess (Kelly Van der Burg) as she makes poor decisions, one after another. Her libido turns to infatuation bordering on obsession.
Tess is an 18-year-old who’s still unable to cope with the loss of her mother. With her interest in school and everyone associated with her hometown waning, Tess finds herself diving deeper into the music of Danny Sharpe (Joel Thomas Hynes) – a former local who left town 20 years prior. Through circumstances surrounding her father, Tess one day walks into the kitchen to discover she’s face to face with Danny himself – back briefly for a visit. Tess develops a deep and intense infatuation with Danny almost immediately- though her burgeoning desires blind her to the real man Danny is behind the charisma.
The story here is nothing new – for centuries there have been tales of young women falling for the wrong men as they develop from girls into women – and Body and Bones does not do too much to shed the familiar story arc of the past. What the film does though is to bring the story to the very distinct and not overly explored setting of small-town Newfoundland. The setting does a lot to propel the story as it explores a general malaise that Tess rebels against. So many of her classmates content in their setting without striving for more as she internally screams to get away from the city that reminds her of her mother in every corner. But the story is not hard to predict here, with the ending never being in much doubt.
What helps the film tremendously though are the two focal performances from Van der Burg and Hynes. Van der Burg is playing a character over a decade younger here – though her appearance would never tell you that this is true – which actually helps her character as her eyes belie a much more experienced soul than characters her own age. It’s a very strong performance that keeps the audience engaged through some of the repetitive and less engaging parts of the film, and carries the audience with her through her painful evolution. Hynes also delivers with a charismatic performance that just slightly outweighs the inherent sleaziness of the character. That sleaze is always there just enough that you can believe Tess does not see the other side of her would beau.
Unfortunately though, the film’s pacing is a slow as the small town it comes from. And it may end up being enough to turn off some of the audience watching the film. In fact, with the way the scenes unfold and the cadence that Hynes uses with Danny, the film is dangerously close to mumble core. But the performances never waiver, and despite an ending that can be predicted from the first time our two mismatched lovers meet, the film does showcase the two leads and the small town setting very well.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Coming of Age, Drama
- Release Date: 10/16/2020
- Directed by: Melanie Oates
- Starring: Emily Corcoran, Joel Thomas Hynes, Kelly Van der Burg, Lawrence Barry, Ruth Lawrence
- Produced by: Allison White, Chris Hatcher, Dillon Bowman, Jennifer Hawley, Peter Harvey
- Written by: Melanie Oates
- Studio: Chara Pictures, Game Theory Films