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A study in ...?

3/10
Author: filmcriticny from United States
25 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Gravida is a film which purports itself to be a "study in loneliness".

Synopsis: A secretary, named Kristin, at an unnamed office, lies through omission of her pregnancy, to gain a date with a delivery man who flirts with her. The date ensues, only to stop abruptly when it is revealed that Kristin has hidden her pregnancy.

First off, what McNelly - the director and screenwriter - does well. The opening sequences of the film, without dialogue, are decently filmed. The music is fitting. The lighting is adequate. The sound is not poorly recorded; the quality does not detract from viewing the piece. The symbolism in the closing shot of Kristin wearing a man's shirt (ostensibly from the now missing father of her child, more on this later) is a nice touch, albeit a little elementary.

A critic could then comment on some of the more glaring problems that keep what could be an otherwise decent idea from succeeding. The dialogue is rough and rather unbelievable. The acting, especially from Rachel Shaw in the lead role, is highly affected - she makes the same hard-to-swallow act of brushing her hair over her ear that jars the viewer out of a sense of catharsis with her and screams, "I didn't know what to do here to look natural," three times.

But the biggest problem of this film is it's inability to make the viewer care about Kristin and her plight. The missing father, whom we are never told about, would be a good way to connect with the audience and give them a reference point. We just don't know why this girl is alone. True, someone has been cut out of a picture, and it can be assumed that this is a past boyfriend and possibly the father of her child. But if that's true, why would Kristin cut out his picture but keep his shirt to wear to bed? A rather glaring inconsistency.

This snapshot of Kristin's life is just that, a snapshot. No background given, other than she's pregnant and pensive and likes to brush her hair out of the way to look beautiful when she first gets up. And no future to speak of, except more sadness and tears. The date leaves and Kristin is alone again, just like in the opening shot, except this time with no cat.

And this leaves the viewer with a feeling of, "So what?". The job of the filmmaker is not to point out the obvious state of a girl, alone in her pregnancy. That's a given. A girl who is totally alone and pregnant who may or may not have a future is going to be sad. You've shown us that she's sad and lonely. So now what? What's the point beyond that. Apparently nothing. It doesn't take gift to show the obvious. The brilliance of a filmmaker is to make us care. Make us care, Mr. McNelly.

(After doing a search for McNelly's other work, it must be said that he is a gifted documentarian and should definitely pursue further projects in that genre.)

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