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A mythic memory play in the vein of The Wicker Man, Deeply is the story of a traumatized teenager, Claire McKay, who is brought to the Island of her ancestors in the hopes of she will recover from the sudden death of her first love. Claire encounters an eccentric writer, Celia, who tells her the story of another grief-stricken teenager, Silly, and the curse which has haunted the Island since the days of the Vikings. As Celia recounts the story of Silly and her great loss, a story that is yet without an ending, Claire relives her own trauma and undergoes a catharsis which sets her spirit free, healed of the grief and horror. As Celia said, a good story does indeed have the power to heal. But the ending to Celia's story has still to be written... Written by
Genevieve Kierans, Publicist
A remote fishing village located off the coast of Canada is the setting for this tale of a close-knit community of people who make their living from the sea, while abiding the customs and superstitions that have been handed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of years. `Deeply,' written and directed by Sheri Elwood, is a story of love and survival, and of what it sometimes takes just to get on with life; but more than that, it's about a dark secret that has been a part of this village since before remembrance, and the effects of a collective belief in something few care to contemplate and even fewer dare to speak of openly, even in a contemporary, modern world in which such things no longer exist-- and yet still do.
When her teenage daughter, Claire (Julia Brendler), cannot escape the memories of a tragic accident, Fiona McKay (Alberta Watson) takes her to the island and the village that was her own home as a child. Fiona hopes the change will enable Claire to put all that has happened behind her. Claire's depression continues, however, and she becomes increasingly withdrawn and uncommunicative, even with her mother, who is desperately trying to reach out and help her.
Things begin to change, however, when Claire finds a manuscript on the beach that's been rejected and returned by the publisher, and she delivers it to the owner, a reclusive writer named Celia (Lynn Redgrave), a long time resident of the island who lives alone in a small house at the edge of the sea. Initially their relationship is tentative, but gradually Claire finds herself drawn to Celia, who agrees to tell Claire the story contained in the manuscript; and it's a story in which Claire finds a parallel to her own life-- and it just may prove to be the catharsis that will enable Claire to move on with her life.
Writer/director Elwood uses the story-within-a-story technique nicely to present her tale, which contains elements that make it something of a cross between `The Secret of Roan Inish' and `The Wicker Man.' It's beautifully filmed (cinematography by Sebastian Edschmid), and the transitions between the present and the depiction of Celia's story are executed quite well. The story itself, though, while engaging to a point, is wrapped in a fairly obvious mystery, which in retrospect may have been Elwood's intent, as she creates the dots but leaves it up to the viewer to connect them. It's effective in that it invites involvement on any number of levels, while leaving it up to the individual to decide upon one and to what extent they want to take it. Celia's story, which involves a young girl named Silly (Kirsten Dunst) is interesting, but the real appeal of the film is rooted in Claire's gradual awareness of her deep connection to Silly, and how the story subsequently affects her. And it's in the telling of Claire's story that Elwood's work shines the brightest, as that is where she manages somewhat to connect emotionally with her audience.
One of the best young actors in the business, Kirsten Dunst is to be commended for taking on a role that is quite a departure for her (with the exception of her portrayal of Marion Davies in the more recent `The Cat's Meow,' in which she was terrific). Dunst has a charismatic screen presence and talent to match, which has served her so well in films like `The Virgin Suicides' and the aforementioned `The Cat's Meow,' and it's obvious that she put a great deal of effort into her portrayal of Silly in this film; and though it's a decent job, she somehow never manages to fully realize the character, and though she has her moments, Silly is never entirely convincing. Part of the blame has to fall on Elwood, of course, who should have taken measures to correct the most obvious flaw in Dunst's performance, which is the inconsistency of the accent she affects. Part of the time her manner of speech most resembles Lux Lisbon, while at other times she sounds more like Ma Kettle's daughter. It is, perhaps, a minor flaw in an otherwise solid performance, but it's enough to prevent Dunst from `finding' the character, and it is so distracting that it diminishes the effectiveness of her portrayal, and in turn the credibility of the film. And there are a couple of scenes in which Silly smokes a pipe that simply do not work at all. Still, you have to admire Dunst for wanting to expand her repertoire and explore new territory; many actors who have achieved a similar level of success lack the courage to challenge themselves artistically as Dunst has done here, and it's an attribute that will continue to set her apart from the dime-a-dozen actors who flow through the business without making so much as a dent.
As Claire, Julia Brendler gives a performance that is honest and affecting, and as much as the story itself, it's what establishes her as the focus of the film. She conveys emotions that transcend the typical teen angst, and it makes her situation real and believable. Her portrayal of Claire is sensitive and (with Elwood's help, of course) is developed with great care, which is what makes it so effective. The film, in fact, would have benefited had Claire's part been expanded, perhaps with more interaction between her and Celia. As presented, however, it is definitely the strength of the film.
Lynn Redgrave does a good job as Celia, though she isn't afforded enough screen time to fully develop her character with any nuance; but it is a convincing performance. Interestingly enough, this was filmed the same year her sister, Vanessa, played a similar role, that of a reclusive old woman living by the sea, in `A Rumor of Angels.' A good film, but nothing special, `Deeply' is worth a look; just don't expect to be too emotionally engaged by it. 6/10.
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