Stephanie Daley | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Stephanie Daley

Studio: Regent Releasing and Liberation Entertainment
Written and Directed by: Hilary Brougher; Starring: Tilda Swinton, Amber Tamblyn and Timothy Hutton

Apr 27, 2007 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Stephanie Daley, the sophomore feature from writer/director Hilary Brougher, is a topical and sadly familiar tale of unwanted pregnancy. The film’s titular character, strongly portrayed by Amber Tamblyn, ignites local controversy when she gives birth to an unwanted baby girl on a school ski trip. Having kept her pregnancy a secret, Stephanie is accused of murdering the child she claims was stillborn. Lydie (Tilda Swinton) is the forensic psychologist hired by the prosecutor to investigate Stephanie’s case. Lydie is nearly ready to give birth to a child of her own, but she is haunted by a previous miscarriage. Despite the oncoming birth, her marriage is shaky at best, partly as a result of the previous failed pregnancy, so her character and story make her a provocative foil for Stephanie.

The film cuts back and forth between flashbacks and the present, slowly revealing Stephanie’s backstory while contrasting it with Lydie’s own personal travails. Set in a largely conservative Christian community, the film tackles questions of abortion, sex education and parental and community responsibility. Noteworthy are the scenes set in both English and Sex Ed classrooms, focusing on the differing viewpoints and methods of educators constrained by the ways the government and community require them to present their curriculum.

All the actors turn in solid performances, but the interplay between Tamblyn and Swinton anchors the film. Also of note is comedian Jim Gaffigan, turning in a surprising dramatic performance as Stephanie’s father, whose life comes unhinged as his family becomes the focus of a controversial news story.

But when the truth finally comes out, it’s surprisingly anti-climactic. The film’s cut and dried “that’s how it happened” is at odds with the dramatic and emotional buildup that the viewer has invested in throughout the course of the film. Furthermore, some of the film’s subplots—the condition of Stephanie’s father and her status as the class black sheep—are left up in the air.

Stephanie Daley is certainly a strong picture, but for all the issues it raises, it doesn’t deliver a satisfying payoff.

Author rating: 6/10

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