"Maybe you shouldn't have made me so bloody small."
That line, from Their Finest, is one I will never forget. Sometimes someone says something you haven't been able to articulate on your own. Lately I've been connecting a lot with the words of Rupi Kaur and Stephen Sondheim. And today, with the words of screenwriter Gabby Chiappe/novelist Lissa Evans.
Why is this movie not on more radars? I weep for the fact that I haven't seen a single thing about it in my news feeds, which are filled with articles from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, etc. It's incredibly moving, and lives in one of my favorite spaces in which a film can exist—one that makes you laugh one moment and weep the next.
There's an essay in Amy Poehler's book Yes Please that talks about this close connection between laughter and crying. She writes about being 10 months pregnant and on set at SNL when she found out that her OBGYN had died the night before. Even though there is perhaps nothing more terrifying than a sobbing million-months-pregnant woman, Jon Hamm (the host that week) said something to her that sent her from hysterically crying to hysterically laughing. She finished the essay saying that this ability for us as human beings to make that right turn from sorrow to joy (and feel both) adds many years to our lives.
My point is that my favorite films seem to tread that same line between sorrow and joy that life does. It's difficult to do and I find it particularly moving.
END OF SIDEBAR:
This film spoke to me so profoundly. As a woman, as a filmmaker, and especially as both. There were witty observations about actors and writers, about England and America, about love and loss. This film was such a celebration of women, so much more than I expected going into it.
Maybe you shouldn't have made me so bloody small.*
Throughout the film, Gemma Arterton's character Catrin is intelligent and driven and quietly flexing her feminist backbone (it's delightful. A reminder to the debt I owe the women who came before me and sacrificed everything for me to even imagine the rights and opportunities I take for granted every day). She makes choices to work, to write complex and brave women in her scripts and to financially support herself, despite people in her life asking or guilting or demanding she doesn't. And finally she realizes that she doesn't have to be small about it. She realizes that she is not out of line, not being too big—she realizes that those individuals want her to be small.
And she deserves to be anything but.
*Spoiler Alert! This line is particularly powerful because Catrin's boyfriend dislikes her independence and accomplishments. He's an artist and in the canvas he painted her she appears as a minuscule figure—he literally makes her small. It's a stunning metaphor. I love movies.