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By Matthew Roe | June 3, 2019

The life of an activist is not woundless nor easy, especially when controversy is inherent to your struggle. However, the situation is made ever the more complicated by personal experiences and biases which work on warping our worldviews, especially if they occur through trauma. Darren Mallett and Shannon Shird have crafted a potent and socially-attuned atmosphere which explores the intricacies by which intimate betrayals can lead to cloudy ethics and ambitions. While it does have some janky plotting and continuity, the power of the characters and central theming make BodyMore a standout of social awareness within the character study subgenre.

“…quests for justice are polluted by the unexpected and damning turns…”

When the free-wheeling Carrie Cook (Trae Harris) returns home to Baltimore to participate in a community protest against police officers killing a young black man, she winds up at a party with her childhood friend Brandon Upton (Daniel J. Watts). Throughout the night, the clear separations between her world and those others at the party become more finite, alcohol and drugs are increasingly consumed, the inhibitions and filters of the partygoers come crashing down. Carrie’s observations of Brandon’s advances on a woman, who is not his girlfriend, puts her into a conflicting position as to what to do. Her choice soon shepherds her down a path of several destructive events throughout the night, which soon poisons her outright outspoken positions on social justice for her community. I don’t want to say anything else since it’ll ruin the impact of the story, but let’s just say that half-measures and hypocrisies are the name of the game.

“The actors bring the extreme character complexities to life with a consistent realism…”

This is a rare instance where a socially-conscious message is on full display for the audience, but instead of a continuous reinforcement of that position, this film’s serious moral conundrums further complicate these complex social issues and make it more difficult to boil these issues down into bumper sticker blanket statements. Characters’ quests for justice are polluted by the unexpected and damning turns a careless universe throws at them, and the issues they tackle are made more complicated as a result. Aided by Antonia Colodro’s sublime cinematography, and Bohdana Smyrnova’s razor-sharp editing, the film is a brisk and visually engaging experience. The actors bring the extreme character complexities to life with a consistent realism, which makes the drama experienced all the more believable and tragic.

The idea of “you hurt me, so you’ve got to make this right” is the most powerful theme running throughout the work, with the upside and downside in various lights, casting aspersions and support for numerous points of view and actions between individuals. It also is the most controversial aspect of the film, which makes for a stellar discussion in which we should continue to examine not only BodyMore but the multitudes of subjects it covers.

BodyMore (2018) Directed by Darren Mallett. Written by Darren Mallett, Shannon Shird. Starring Trae Harris, Daniel J. Watts.

7 out of 10

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