By midlandsmovies, Apr 19 2019 08:09AM
Midlands Review - Troubled Waters
Directed & written by Gemma Norton
A tear runs down the cheek of our protagonist Viv in the opening of this award-winning drama from Midlands director Gemma Norton and the audience too will be moved by this fantastic film, Troubled Waters.
Viv is a mother of two – played by Vivienne Bell who won Best Actress at our 2019 Midlands Movies Awards – and her harrowing yet sensitive portrayal of a mum suffering mental health issues is a huge part of the short’s success.
Troubled Waters shows Viv undertaking a variety of household tasks, but she is concerned there’s something wrong with her baby daughter. Her husband Terry (Terry Sweeney) allays her fears but Viv is adamant she is not exaggerating.
With the baby crying, Viv’s stress levels rise and we see her curled up like a foetus on a bed, struggling to cope with the various demands of parenthood. These strong images are beautifully composed by the director and are shot excellently by the film’s cinematographer Richard Staff.
Bell does a great performance of a woman exhausted by motherhood and the story sees her attributing these anxieties ‘onto’ her children. As the strain begins to take its toll on her own health, Viv shouts at the infants before fainting due to the toll its physically taking.
Filmed in a naturalistic way, the stylistic realism and exploration of parental themes – along with Bell’s own slight resemblance to Jessica Chastain – the film has echoes of Terence Malick’s Tree of Life. Like that film, Troubled Waters concerns itself with hugely important aspects of family existence too.
A trip to the swimming baths shows some brief family fun but reveals Viv’s dependency on medication to deal with her worries. And in addition we see her suspiciously spying her partner and children from behind a curtain, suggesting her trauma is far from resolved.
As we come to the film’s conclusion, the disturbing themes come to a climax and extreme exhaustion overcomes Viv keeping the film’s tension high.
Troubled Waters covers a range of post-natal depression (PND) conditions including fatigue, exhaustion, guilt, shame and feelings of hopelessness but director Norton never pushes the envelope so far that we feel that she couldn’t recover from these frustrations. Despite her lack of ability to think through things clearly, Viv is shown bonding with the baby towards the end leaving viewers on a message, albeit a very small one, of hope.
An intense, emotional and thorough exploration of post-natal psychological stress, Troubled Waters is a brilliant film showcasing top talent and excellent high-quality technical aspects. With stunning images, a focused narrative and an affecting premise, the short is unsettling but hugely satisfying as it deals with the risk factors of such an important disorder in a sensitive way.