Released by: Film Movement
Released on: September 4, 2012.
Director: Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson
Cast: Anna Margaret Hollyman, Richard Hoag, Andre Holland, Mary Beth Peil
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Sarah (Hollyman) is a self-employed “technologist,” a bit of a “maker,” and enjoys using, dismantling and interviewing others about technology and the impact it has on their lives in modern society. Once she becomes pregnant, though, she becomes fearful that she’s more interested, for example, in her ultrasound tech rather than the fetus inside her.
Her sister decides to throw her a baby shower since she’s had kids and apparently has many friends with young ones as well. So Sarah packs up and flies out from her home in NYC to LA to do this. The party is an overwhelming disaster, filled with people and experiences outside of Sarah’s reality. She soon departs, then, to visit their father living in nearby SoCal and to try and connect at last with her estranged mother. However, Sarah finds out that her mother has moved off the grid and isn’t exactly thrilled with the prospect of meeting her.
Sarah’s dad has moved on in life and their relationship is healthy and honest enough for him to talk about Skyping with his gal-pal in Brazil. He tells Sarah that the relationship is between two real people who are “just enjoying the moment.” It’s clear that Sarah has trouble connecting that notion but given her ambivalence around her pregnancy and her stress around reconnecting with her mother the sentiment makes sense.
So despite her boyfriend’s concerns Sarah sets out for the Nevada desert to find her mother. She has to stop to rest at one point and meet’s her boyfriend’s sister, Towie (Susan Kelechi Watson) in Las Vegas. She’s a masseuse but also into aura-energy and relaxes Sarah a bit, letting her know that her aura’s spirit companion is a bit of an opposite of her. She gives Sarah the image of a lizard and a light bulb and, before too long, Sarah is using that as her guide rather than relying on her technology to get her places.
Soon enough, then, Sarah finally meets her mother (Peil) at a remote commune of sorts. It’s an emotional meeting since her mother never bothered her after she left them and, for her part, Sarah had been pretty angry and had written her off. Their confrontation is not mean-spirited now but is rather honest and assesses where they’re both at in life. It’s clear that her mother is still not going to be very good as a mom but her independence and lack of focus only serve to strengthen, ultimately, Sarah’s own resolve. She realizes that no one has ready answers on how to be a good mother - that it all depends solely on the person, the positive relationships they have with others, and how they build something together when neither truly ever knows what they’re doing.
Another typical solid entry from Film Movement is on display here. The image is fullframe at 16:9 and for such a small, focused film they really fill the screen in a nice, balanced sort of way. Likewise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack might seem like overkill but there are some key moments - especially when Sarah is getting overwhelmed in her situation by the baby’s heartbeat - that it becomes essential and so is a welcome addition.
Short films for both directors are included here: Howell’s Head Stand, a short (:9 min.) and very film school-y story of a woman trying to clear her mind enough to actually do a head stand in yoga class; and Robinson’s The Failure of Pamela Salt, a short (:23 min.) about a young woman’s reconnection with her own past that has more to do with the main feature, even including some locations used in that film.
Brief bios for the directors and the film’s star are included along with the film’s original trailer and a few other trailers for Film Movement releases.
The Final Word:
With filmmaking so dominated by male voices it’s refreshing to get a woman’s perspective and focus on women’s stories, especially when it’s done as well as small, beautifully Moving Parts. The film’s critique really matches up with its primary central character of Sarah in that it is modern, sensible and honest enough to be capable of handling some fairly huge emotional moments in life. Incredibly well-acted and very well-shot the film is a nice, quiet departure from the typical romance/coming-of-parenthood tale that fully looks at motherhood and family in a relatable and realistic fashion.