Stephanie Daley

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Brougher developed this film—about a teen who disposes of her newborn baby and claims she didn’t know she was pregnant—at the Sundance Institute, and it shows. The script tackles big issues with an eye on the details of everyday life (a strength of Sundance) and tends toward overly schematic structure and a use of obvious symbolism (Sundance’s weakness). Stephanie (Tamblyn) has been charged with killing her newborn, and forensic psychiatrist Lydie Crane (Swinton) has been hired by the prosecutor to determine the girl’s mental state. Loading the dramatic dice a bit, Lydie is pregnant after suffering a stillbirth just a year ago, and so is particularly sensitive to questions of pregnancy. Stephanie’s case is tricky. Raised by religious but not fanatical parents in a small upstate New York town, she has the typical teen mix of immense naïveté and burgeoning sexuality. As Lydie interviews her, we see the events leading up to Stephanie’s horrific delivery in a ski-resort bathroom. The question of what she knew and understood carries us along as any good mystery does. Unfortunately, the script indulges in lumbering symmetries; Stephanie and Lydie both have cats, both cut their hands in kitchens, etc. That excessive tidiness detracts from the film’s topical power.

By: Hank Sartin

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Cast and crew

Director: Hilary Brougher
Cast: Tilda Swinton
Amber Tamblyn
Timothy Hutton
Jim May
Melissa Leo