By Nina Kalirai
Maternal is a short film directed by Andrew Simpson and written by Richard Young, produced here in Toronto and released in 2018. The film follows Rebecca (Millie Davis) on the day she hoped to have heard back from an art camp, while her mother (Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah) opts out of fully explaining to Rebecca the status of her acceptance letter and why she would not be able to attend the camp.
The film begins with Rebecca coming home from school to her poverty stricken neighbourhood, while her Caribbean mom is making her dinner. Rebecca explains to her mother her hopes of being accepted to an art camp she applied to, after being encouraged by her teacher at school. Her mother’s first question is how much it costs to attend the camp.
Rebecca tells her mother the camp is $800 to attend, and while she goes back to her room saying out loud that maybe she’s not good enough, the audience is shown her mother holding the acceptance letter that she hid from Rebecca. Her mother encourages her, that even if she doesn’t get accepted she is extremely talented and will always be good enough.
Her mother encourages her to check the mail one last time because there’s still a chance the post man didn’t come. While she goes with her to check, Rebecca turns to her mother to tell her she loves her, not knowing her mother withheld the letter from her and while the audience may think she went with Rebecca to plant the letter in the mailbox before Rebecca got to it - that is far from what she chose to do with it.
The seven-minute film had no music at all, but that allowed the audience to focus on the decision Rebecca’s mother had to make. The film’s cuts and edits made it easy to focus on what was intended to be focused on, by not jumping from scene to scene too quickly and allowing the audience time to absorb what was going on with the letter.
Maternal was an interesting watch, as what the mother chose to do with Rebecca’s letter was a twist I didn’t see coming. However, I did wish her mother sat her down to explain the reality of their situation when it came to money, versus hiding it from her and allowing her to live in this alternate reality.
Editor’s Note: As screened at the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival ’19.