Student Critic Sara Kotwicki reviews
Balance, Not Symmetry
(Jamie Adams, UK, 2019)
A film that promises to be a tribute to art and music unfortunately falls flat. Balance, Not Symmetry is a disappointing portrayal of grief and emotional expression.
In this Glasgow-set drama, student Caitlin (Laura Harrier) struggles to complete her final year at art school in the wake of her father's death. This opening plot point immediately illustrates one of the film’s key problems. While the father is supposedly the main motivation behind Caitlin’s actions in the film, there is zero backstory on his character and how he affected Caitlin. Consequently the connection between them is unbelievable. Director Jamie Adams expects the death to explain everything behind her character, but it is not enough to create a compelling film.
The film follows grief-stricken Caitlin in the weeks after her father’s death, attempting to continue with her life as normal while also supporting her bereaved mother. Her interactions with other characters, including best friend Hannah (Bria Vinaite) and love interest Rory (Scott Miller), all seem forced and unprepared. There is no real exposition to Caitlin’s character, making her unrelatable and fake. The film’s dialogue is unnatural and repetitive. Instead of showing emotions through image, a lot of feelings are discussed instead.
The lacklustre cinematography further fails to portray the emotions of the film. Actors are lit incorrectly and awkward close ups add to the overall clumsiness of the film. There seems to be no specific cinematic language chosen for the movie, and there is no creativity in the lighting chosen.
Using art as an outlet for grief is a prevailing theme throughout the film, however it feels as if Adams expects the “deepness” of art to carry his story to the end. In reality, art is subjective, and each audience member will have a different opinion on Caitlin’s art. Instead of recognizing the complexity of art, Adams forces his own interpretation on us. It seems to be trying too hard to relate to the artistic community, which Adams is clearly unfamiliar with.
The music, written by the Scottish band Biffy Clyro, is an interesting choice, but the intensity of rock music does not fit a story about a grieving student. The soundtrack on its own is decent, but is at odds with the mood of the film.
A film exploring the emotions of grief and the importance of art has so much potential for success, but Adams simply did not meet the standard. Balance, Not Symmetry fails to relate to any human experience and fails to use true filmmaking skills to tell its story.