Dance was so central to Georgia Parris’ shorts Brighter Borough and Every Savage Can Dance that it comes as no surprise to find it playing a pivotal part in her feature debut, expanded from her 2016 short Abandon. Although trained as an actor, Parris switched to directing to create content rather than merely interpret it and she credits Wim Wenders’ Pina with revealing dance’s cinematic potential. Indeed, Pina Bausch’s influence is readily evident on a subtly feminist chamber drama that also contains echoes of Joanna Hogg and some cries and whispers from Ingmar Bergman.
Nothing is rushed, as Charlotte reluctantly takes time out from the show she hopes will make her name to visit her ailing artist grandmother in Sherborne. As she’s been raised in New York by her father, Charlotte still feels like an outsider in the family circle and her sister is nowhere near as welcoming as her mother and brother-in-law Rohan (Peter Singh). But the tension is heightened by the fact that Lauren is recovering from a miscarriage at the precise moment that Charlotte is debating whether to terminate the pregnancy that could scupper her career.
Despite the bookending rehearsal room and dream ballet sequences choreographed by Maxine Doyle, there’s a good deal of stillness and silence for a dance film, as suppression and discretion keep the home truths under wraps. But while the action can be a bit perplexing if you’re not fluent in the language of dance, it’s also meticulously paced and played, with Smith (a dancer who was profiled in Elvira Lind’s 2017 documentary in only her second acting role) holding her own against the estimable Nicholls and Worrall, in questioning the truth of the assertion that modern women really can have it all.