TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Not to say that this never occurs, but when it does, it is a surprise. Shapeless is a film that made me feel palpable physical discomfort throughout its runtime. How was this jaded person able to feel so much dread simply from watching this film? The hyper-realistic depictions of the often-deadly eating disorder, bulimia. Almost all women, up to 75% according to sciencedaily.com, have experienced one form of disordered eating or another in their lifetimes. So I think if there’s ever been a movie that almost all women can relate to, and therefore be scared shitless by, it’s this one.
Ivy (Kelly Murtagh, who also co-wrote the script) is an up-and-coming jazz singer in New Orleans. She plays with her band every night in the same cafe, which often doesn’t have that much of an audience to speak of, but Ivy perseveres. During the day, she works for a dry-cleaning company. As for the rest of her time, well, it is occupied by a less-than-pleasant activity. We are slowly introduced to Ivy’s severe bouts of bulimia. Its hold over Ivy grows and grows throughout the film, and we are there to squirm our way through its unfolding. At a certain point, her fight with the awful disease is so bad that she starts to grow Cronenbergian appendages in unwanted places, or is it just in Ivy’s head? Worse yet, her bulimia has done severe damage to her esophagus, which makes her singing next to impossible.
“…hyper-realistic depictions of the often-deadly eating disorder, bulimia.”
Shapeless relies a lot on mood rather than dialogue, which is part of what makes it so emotionally effective. We feel the loneliness of Ivy’s condition because we see it artfully depicted onscreen. Something else interesting that isn’t always talked about in art that explores eating disorders is that they are often accompanied by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD. This film shows the connection in Ivy’s obsession with counting, especially in relation to her body and food. I think part of the reason why this film feels so real, even when Ivy has eyes in her arm, is because co-writer/star Kelly Murtagh experienced an eating disorder herself.
I would recommend watching Shapeless as a gripping commentary on society’s obsession with vanity and, of course, eating disorders. I would also attach an ostentatious trigger warning because I am not lying that sometimes this film made me literally squirm in my seat. It’s also the type of movie, that while great, I will probably never watch again because it left me feeling so emotionally drained at the end. In a way that all the best thrillers are able to do. So I wouldn’t call that an insult. In this case, it’s much more of a compliment. Maybe you are less squeamish than I when it comes to a realistic portrayal of a harrowing disease, in which case, bravo! Director Samantha Aldana did an excellent job of combining filmmaking techniques that make you feel the real horror that is bulimia. There’s no denying that, even if I can’t watch the movie again. I certainly got a lot out of my first watch. If you think you can handle this film, I certainly recommend it.
Shapeless screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…if you think you can handle this film, I certainly recommend it. "