Given that Shapeless is an incredibly personal film to lead actress and writer Kelly Murtagh, detailing a disorder that cripples many, it’s a somewhat painful experience to be framing a review in a negative light.
There’s a dark, unforgiving movie in here somewhere, one that expresses no fear in manifesting her struggle with bulimia in the form of a literal grotesque transformation that she fights at bay by ironically feeding her addiction. But there’s also an incredibly taxing film present, one that burns too slow and feels undone by its uneven balance of human drama and metaphorical horror.
You have to applaud Murtagh for being so brave though, for not only baring her experience but performing it in a distinct manner that allows for not a drop of vanity. Her Ivy is a frustrating character, someone who is self-sabotaging and unaware of the somewhat toxic mentality she harbours.
Ivy’s love of singing and the aspirations that come with that mean the constant purging after each eating-binge is ultimately overthrowing her yearnings. Feeding herself in a bid to cease becoming a monster – director Samantha Aldana peppers the film with horrid visuals of Ivy’s body protruding or disfigured with extra appendages – only to rid it from her body is damaging her vocals, with the film highlighting this cyclical temperament that proves she’s her ultimate worst enemy.
A powerful thought contained in a project that can’t quite spotlight the ugliness it truly needs to, there’s importance in Shapeless‘s storytelling, especially in these social media-heavy times where body dysmorphia runs rampant, but its insistence on allegorical imagery only lends itself to its misguided personality. Presenting Ivy’s ailment in the form of body horror makes perfect sense, but the brief glimpses of this feel occasionally like an afterthought within a more subtle-minded drama that favours minimalism and melodrama.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Shapeless is screening as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which is being presented both virtually and physically between June 9th – 20th, 2021. For more information head to the official Tribeca page.