(Something, Anything, Paul Harrill, 2014)
Peggy (Ashley Shelton) is a gorgeous young woman with all the trappings of a lovely bourgeois existence: handsome husband, beautiful home, career in realty, and a baby on the way. But when Peggy miscarrys, the seeming idyll of her world is shattered and she finds herself utterly bewildered at things not turning right. To the vocal consternation of all around her, she sets about systematically dismantling her world, searching for a means of reorganising and structuring her life so it seems to have meaning again.
An intriguing study of grief and a woman’s rejection of normative societal roles, Something, Anything maintains the audience’s fascination despite a slight narrative and very studied pacing. Peggy is presented as a blank slate, rarely explaining herself, which allows the viewer to superimpose their own philosophical motivations on her actions (though a monastery is visited and spirituality a distinct theme, this is not a prescriptively religious film, to its strength). Unfortunately, Peggy’s vacant personality can prove irritating – she may work as a film protagonist but seems like she’d be a bore to hang out with in real life.
Where proceedings are seriously let down, though, is by the under-written, unrealistic secondary characters. In particular, her relationship with her husband is poorly sketched and feels facile: you have no idea why these two people decided to wed in the first place, let alone why their marriage then starts struggling. It is compelling to watch Peggy pare down her existence, seeking solace in an ascetic lifestyle following personal loss, but her transformation would feel more resonant if she was interacting with fully-rounded, self-reflective characters instead of the nasty ciphers she boasts as friends.
Something, Anything is the debut feature from American writer-director Paul Harrill. Despite the shortcomings of characterisations, it marks Harrill out as an idiosyncratic, considered film-maker, with a delicate perspective on the world. One to watch.