I remember disliking Kathleen Hepburn’s solo feature Never Steady, Never Still, with its shaky use of narrative devices. This time around, she collaborates with co-director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers for The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open. I’m also not sure of who did what but the result is a film that’s excellently kinetic.
That feels like the only way to tell the story of a happenstance meeting between its two leads. Both of its female protagonists share equal footing, but I do have to talk about Aila (Tailfeathers) first. She, after all, found Rosie (Violet Nelson), a stranger facing an abusive situation and decides to help her.
Aila and Rosie share the screen then, which they almost never do for the rest of the film. The camera, then, rests on one woman separately as the other learns something about or judges her. These scenes play out in real time, as if we’re only spending less than two hours with them. But those two hours is ample time to reveal how their identity guides their present perspectives and decisions.
Films like this would present Rosie’s character as either a victim or as a person with irredeemable qualities. The co-directors, collaborating with Nelson, play her as a person in between and adds the necessary nuance. Both Nelson and Tailfeathers are great at playing off each other but they have scenes when they’re alone. Moments of silence like this are when the film is at its strongest, their intimacy earning our empathy.
For more information about The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open go to https://tiff.net/events/the-body-remembers-when-the-world-broke-open.
- Rated: 14A
- Genre: Drama
- Release Date: 9/8/2019
- Directed by: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn
- Starring: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Violet Nelson
- Produced by: Dyveke Bjørkly Graver, Lori Lozinski
- Written by: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn
- Studio: Experimental Forest Films, Violator Films