Mouthpiece (CIFF 2018)

Well, here’s a delightful surprise. Mouthpiece, directed by Patricia Rozema, is based on a play which was written by and stars Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava. For the adaptation, Rozema brought both women in to play the same role they played in the play and also gave them screenwriting credits. And, no, that isn’t a typo. I meant “role.” The two actors play one role: Cassandra, a woman whose mother dies and then has 48 hours to organize affairs and write the eulogy.

The idea here is that both women represent parts of Cassandra’s personality and allow for internal debates and conflicts to be showcased externally, with dramatic and comedic timing both at play. Much of the film consists of Cassandra going from place to place in Toronto—grocery stores, flower shops, the mall, etc.—and trying to process all of the emotions she feels. Without its central conceit, the project becomes an unwatchable bore. But by outwardly splitting Cassandra into two women—never actually mentioned or addressed in the film, by the way—it becomes something special.

Mouthpiece feels honest, it is at times heartbreaking and humorous, and it’s doing something that very few films you’ll ever see do. Nostbakken and Sadava are great, Maev Beaty shows up as Cassandra’s mother and is wonderful, and the transition from play to film is seamless; it doesn’t feel like a play, and uses “film” elements well to add onto what could only be done when it was a play. This is a great movie.

Conclusion: Mouthpiece is a great emotional experience and has a central gimmick that is essential in making it effective.

Recommendation: Mouthpiece is absolutely worth your time.

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