By Nabeela Damji
Mouthpiece made its world premiere on the opening night of the Special Presentations program of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The film is based on an award-winning play by Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken.
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The film uses the backdrop of Toronto - one of producer and director Patricia Rozema’s many themes throughout her films - to tell a story of finding one’s self through unspeakable loss.
Mouthpiece is a film about a woman named Cassandra, who after the sudden death of her mother, struggles to find the words to pen a moving eulogy.
Sadava and Nostbakken, who simultaneously, and perfectly play different aspects of the same woman, go through a rollercoaster of emotion in a two-day period. These two days include dialogue that is blunt, often hilarious and emotional. Both women dress the same, even moving in perfect unison, something Sadava said came easy for both actors, after three years of touring their play.
Nostbakken mentioned that they didn’t want the characters to be binary, in that there wasn’t a clear cut “good” or “bad” character.
In terms of costumes for both characters, they only touched one thing, a cellphone and a bike, stating that they wanted to create a woman when she’s both things at each moment at all times, the goal was not to create a twin, but to showcase duality and complexity.
The film flashes back to defining moments in both Cassandra and her mother Elaine’s (Maev Beaty) life. Like Cassandra, Elaine was a writer who ultimately gave up a job in publishing to pursue family life in raising her two kids. Rozema does an excellent job of using these flashbacks to add substance to the film.
Even more so, the beginning of the film eludes to a fight between Cassandra and Elaine so terrible, that the family tries their best to convince Cassandra to not give the eulogy entirely.
There are moments of sadness and hilarity in this film, with both women playing two sides of the same person, in a clash of emotions and internal dialogue that come off as real and authentic.
There are however, pieces of the film that did not work. For example, a sequence where the two Cass’s metaphysical fight turns into a physical one at a church alter, as well as a grocery store musical number, are some of the elements that didn’t quite fit into the films overall tone.
Both Sadava and Nostbakken made their acting debut in this film, and after three years of touring their award-winning play, were happy to turn it into a feature film. What was also great to see was that every individual involved with the production of this film was female. The score was entirely original. So original, in fact, that most of the music is Nostbakken’s voice layered with Sadava’s, which was done in a room with sleeping bags and pillows covering the walls and recorded on garage band.
Overall, Mouthpiece is a film that is raw and real, with exceptional acting and directing. The end will leave you in tears and you’ll feel a rollercoaster of emotion. Trust me, it’s worth it.
*Editor’s note: Mouthpiece was originally screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18