I was a little underwhelmed with Toronto After Dark’s screening of Afterbirth this evening at Scotiabank Theatre. I always try and find something I enjoy about all the films that screen there, and this time it was the people involved in the making of the film, both in front of and behind the camera. I know some of them, I’m fond of them, delighted to know they are working, and support them in their choices (and hey, they are out there doing!, I’m just here writing about it), but the film this night was a disconnected, muddled mess.
With aspirations of body horror, and a script that thinks its dialogue is more clever than it is, Antibirth was a could have been. Natasha Lyonne is the film’s lead as Lou, a hard partying girl who finds herself somehow, incredibly, pregnant. Lyonne has crafted a cinematic image of being that likeable, sarcastic, quirky girl, which has served her well, but this time around, even her charm can’t save her character.
With mealy dialogue, and poor pacing, there’s no way to develop an empathy for the character, and with the jerky, disconnected way the story unfolds, the audience is kept at a distance, and can’t find a way in.
She’s surrounded by a solid cast including Chloe Sevigny, Meg Tilly (who adds a much needed gravitas to the film, as well as a tonal shift, that makes the film feel, a little stronger), and my friend Jessica Greco, but the stumbling manner of the story, perhaps to be reflective of Lou’s usual state of mind, prevents any one of these fine actors from doing much more than emoting their way through a series of scenes that loosely form the narrative.
For a film that is hailed as “gross” and “epically f*&ked up,” the film actually seems to shy away from going full Cronenberg and doesn’t have as much fun with the ‘ick factor’ as it should.
With a poorly fleshed out story, that hints at the possibility of something greater, this could have been a lot of fun; if Lyonne had been given more to work with, if the film could have taken the viewer in, if the story had been more tightly edited, as there was a distinct lack of flow, I think this would have been a winner.
Instead, we had something that brushed close to being interesting, fun and unique that didn’t quite play out.
I always like the films that play at Toronto After Dark because they are films that I may not seek out on my own, or find a way to see otherwise, so in that regard, I’m glad I got to see Antibirth, but I will always want it to be a stronger, more well thought out story.
There’s still two nights to come! Check out the schedule and tickets here!