Friday, October 29, 2021

Weekend Screen Scene: A Mouthful Of Air, Women Is Losers

Amanda Seyfried stars as a children's book author dealing with post-partum depression in the difficult drama A Mouthful of Air. 

It's a difficult in a number of ways. For one, it's a topic, like many topics centered on women, that too often gets relegated to the realm of Lifetime, seldom making it into studio pictures. And it's a difficult topic to depict, as many stories of mental illness can be. How do you properly convey an inner turmoil that can often be so deep and hidden via a medium that depends on the visual?

First time director Amy Koppleman, who also wrote the screenplay, which is based on her 2003 novel of the same name, chooses to keep most of that turmoil hidden. From the start, we don't really know how new mom Julie (Amanda Seyfried) is feeling, we only see how she is reacting to her feelings, when she attempts suicide in the early moments of the film. We then see how those around her react to that attempt, and some of those reactions are shocking, like when her sister-in-law (Jennifer Carpenter) yells at Julie for being thoughtless; do you know her brother is still scrubbing blood out of the carpet!?

Thankfully, Julie's husband (Finn Wittrock) is more understanding, and when she gets pregnant again, he's the one who insists she stays on her medication, while she is more fearful about what the medication may do to her child, and her own ability to breastfeed. Seyfried gives a great performance, and when the film does depict her moments of mental and parental exhaustion, she is wholly convincing. She shines in a film that is too often frustratingly opaque.

A Mouthful of Air is now playing in select theaters.

Women Is Losers is another movie about the hardships of motherhood, and if these two movies have taught me anything, it's that I should never regret not having children.

Women Is Losers instantly won me over, at least partially, with its early 1970's San Francisco setting, even if the film makes no real attempt to depict that era of the city accurately. This is actually something the film apologies for, right off the bat, as characters break the fourth wall, explaining that their small budget didn't allow for much in the way of street dressing, or glamorous lighting. (There's no excusing the era-inappropriate hairstyling though. But I digress.)

Breaking the fourth wall happens a lot, with the film's single mother heroine Celina (Lorenza Izzo) often speaking directly to the viewer about the inequities that women, especially women of color, had to face in that era, and pointedly calling out where things have not really changed. It's a little gimmicky, and gives the film the feeling of a stage play, but for the most part it didn't bother me. The strong cast, which includes Simu Liu, Liza Weil, Stephen Bauer, but particularly Lorenza Izzo, helps carry the film over its bumpier and cliched moments.

Women Is Losers is currently streaming on HBO Max.

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