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By Mark Bell | June 17, 2008

“She Unfolds By Day” is a semi-experimental feature film about a middle-aged man and his elderly Mother, and his Mother’s penchant for wandering away from her apartment, or running away from nursing homes. Played out with repeating, though expanded upon, sets of imagery and scenes of the Mother, the son’s dog, Jacques, playing and various Nature footage, the film brings you into a cycle of confusion and loneliness, and is an example of life becoming such a vicious circle that it surrounds and traps the inhabitants.

Originally conceived as a documentary about his Mother by director Rolf Belgum, the film was turned instead into the narrative it is today, with actors or family members replacing other characters in the piece, with the exception of Rolf’s Mother, who plays herself. And she is the true strength of the film, as you can understand that she doesn’t do or say the things she does out of spite or an interest in making life harder for those around her, but because she is stunk in an ever-downward spiral of age and senility and wants, desperately, to regain the freedom and life she once had. There are moments when she’s upset about the number of visits her son is able to give her when I thought about all those moments in my life when you just wish someone would drop by and care, but you don’t want to speak up for fear of being discarded completely.

The other strength of the film is the nature photography and the footage of wolf packs, various insects and the wilderness. Simply gorgeous, said footage feels out of place within the context of this film but perhaps would’ve been a much stronger, smaller experimental piece on its own. Juxtaposed in this film, it seems to be a statement on Nature but the constant re-use of certain imagery makes you wonder if there’s something you’re missing, or if the filmmaker just wanted to include pretty images lest they go to waste.

“She Unfolds By Day” would’ve been better served, I feel, as a short at about 1/2 of its current length (and possibly two shorts, if you made something separate out of the Nature footage). Mainly because, though I understand how the use of repetition allows one to be just as frustrated with the on-set of senility and continued runaways of the Mother, it also didn’t need to play out over and over again amid increasingly long footage of the dog playing. Less dog, more Mother, shorter film and I think it’s a much better piece. Particularly because so much footage is repeated, at times it felt like certain shots played out over-and-over more to pad the running time to a feature rather than roll out at a more natural pace.

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