Mouthpiece (2018)

I put the original release date in the titles of all reviews on this site, not entirely sure why but it’s something I started doing so it’s now something I can’t stop as it’s the house style. Usually I end up with the previous years date in the title until about mid-June due to US films getting them before us, never had one 3 years out though. If you look at the poster you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a Scandinavian film with English subtitles. It’s actually from Canada, lead exporter of hockey pucks, politeness, and sexy Ryans.

I’m not really sure why it took so long to get a UK release, especially on demand. Maybe it’s the non-sexual nudity, or the female masturbation scene (women enjoying themselves sexually is something cinema is still not comfortable with for some reason). I hope that’s not the case, and it’s probably not, but there’s like a 1% chance that is the case. Either way, it got released on various VOD platforms in the UK this year, and better late than never, if this film came out years ago when lots of stuff was released there’s a chance I wouldn’t have seen it as it wouldn’t have caught my eye. That would have been a real shame as this is the first genuine hidden gem of this year so far and it’s hard to imagine a film I know nothing about impressing me quite as much as this one did.

I often see films described as “performance art”, and that is never more true than this film. It features two actors playing the same character simultaneously, so everything they do is in sync in some way. It’s a GREAT gimmick and it really helps display the inner turmoil of the character and the duplicity of humanity which resides in all of us. There’s a moment where a guy is creepy to her (them? I have no idea whether to refer to the main character as plural or singular, it’s a unique film). One of her swears at her, but the other thanks him.

Now onto the negative, I feel this film could have been smaller. It’s adapted from a play so I expected it to make the most of the gimmick and have the two sides of the character interact with each other but it doesn’t do that too much, instead it introduces a lot of other characters, which slightly detracts away from the core story of a person losing their mother. When I saw what the film was about I expected it to be incredibly isolated and mainly be the two of them conversing with each other. Maybe that’s on me for it not being what I expected, as it doesn’t exactly make the film bad, it’s still a great watch.

As I mentioned, this film was based on a play, and I want to see it now as I’m curious as to how it worked. There are moments here which never would have worked on stage. An example of this is the characters walking around a shopping mall discussing the funeral when it goes into one of them imagining doing a musical number (with subtitles) at the funeral, which then leads to an argument from the two characters (well, two people, as I said, they’re the same character). I have no idea how that could work on a stage but it really works here. The sense of depressive playfulness is great. There are other moments which I’m curious to see how they were done on stage (if they were done at all), mainly the extensive flashbacks. This is how play to film adaptations should be done, they should recognise the differences between the two formats and use it to do things that weren’t possible in the original that enhance the story. I believe the two main actors were also the ones in the play, and that really helps the film as they GET the characters. Would it have been more successful if they cast bigger actresses? Probably. Would it have made the film better? Not a chance. The performers, Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, wrote the original play. So they know the material, and they know how to play every single moment in the most perfect way possible. Seriously, I cannot praise their performance enough, they’re a key part to this working.

I wish this film hit slightly harder, it didn’t leave me a complete emotional wreck, it just made me feel bleak for a while. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hit hard occasionally, the funeral scene is a highlight in terms of staging and performance. It starts with the two versions of her fighting to get to the one to deliver the eulogy, then the one who wins is physically unable to make it up to do it as they keep being pushed back by an unknown force. The two then embrace and walk up, delivering it together. Starting with them alternating dialogue, and then in tandem. It’s thematically the best way this film could end, in terms of narrative, in terms of film style, and in terms of character, you will not find a more deserving ending to a film than this.

Some people will resonate with this film a lot more than I did, and for some it won’t mean anything at all, but I recommend everybody gives it a go, you may love it, you may hate it, but it’s an experience you need to go through. Is it better than Soul? No. But if someone asked me to recommend a film from this year, I’d go with this first, purely because I believe it to be a film more people need to be aware of.