BFI Flare Film Festival: My Fiona Review
Debut feature from filmmaker Kelly Walker, My Fiona, is a deep dive into death, loss and the often confusing rollercoaster of emotions that arise in the wake of losing someone you love. A bold and difficult topic to cover in one’s first feature, Walker’s film is self assured and strong in its themes, and whilst it doesn’t always seem convinced in the direction of its story, Walker proves that she’s a very capable filmmaker.
After the death of her best friend and business partner Fiona (Sara Amini), Jane (Jeanette Maus) struggles to carry on with her life. That is until she begins to embark on a deeper relationship with Fiona’s wife Gemma (Corbin Reid) - a relationship that begins as a support system yet transforms into something wholly different. Tactfully approaching subjects of sexuality and grief, it is a bittersweet snapshot which comes across as authentic and sincere.
Much of My Fiona is preoccupied with exploring grief and all its bizarre nuances, and the film leans into the journey of grief being an intricate and frustrating one. The catalyst of Fiona’s suicide is not a trivial moment used only for the development of the other characters around her, rather the grief that is left behind after her death is the story itself. There is no glossing over, no brushing it aside and moving on. Both Jane and Gemma’s entire story arcs are bound up in experiencing that loss, over and over again, through their own burgeoning relationship with one another. Fuelled both by grief and desire, their story together is sincere exploration of how non-linear and destructive a profound loss can be to one's ability to see sense.
Newcomer Jeanette Maus is excellent as the tormented Jane, a young woman who has lost the biggest influence in her life and is being pushed to discover what she really wants, perhaps more prematurely than she would have wanted. Opposite stars Corbin Reid (How to Get Away with Murder) as Gemma, the driven, career focussed lawyer wife of the deceased Fiona. Reid encapsulates the guilt at being a relatively absent parent, and her subsequent fear that she will never be as good a parent as Fiona was. Equally as mesmerising as the two leads is child actor Elohim Nycalove who plays Bailey. The little girl is hurting after the loss of his mother, and Nycalove is utterly convincing as a child in immense pain with no way to let it out.
Though the film gets off to a really strong start, the story begins to feel muddled towards the second. This coincides with the deterioration of Jane’s sense of what she should and shouldn’t be doing (particularly in regards to Gemma). It makes sense for Jane to be confused, but at times the film also seems confused and unsure of how to treat Jane’s newfound relationship to Gemma. The situation is a difficult one, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to know which side to come down on. In the end, it fizzles out to a less than satisfactory ending, which is a shame from a film which began with such bold convictions. The film is at its best when it isn’t making judgements about Jane or Gemma - on a few occasions there is an implication that Gemma is a bad parent, which doesn’t fit with the rest of the film's tone, and feels very out of place.
That said, My Fiona is an impressive first feature which dives headfirst into the big topics. It loses its way towards the end, but is still a deeply moving portrait of grief and desire.