Without introducing and superfluous elements or even standard subtext, Philippe de Pierpont's single-minded character study, She's Not Crying, She's Singing, limits itself to a moment in time for abuse victim Laura (Erika Sainte), characterized by forced introspection when her father is left in a coma after a car accident.
Though initially veiled through seemingly idiosyncratic behaviour, Laura's cold relationship with her mother and oddly threatening tone when talking to her comatose father suggests familial imbalance and an unresolved past. Similarly, her inability to accept a romantic partner beyond the physical, kicking men out of her apartment after coitus is consummated, it's clear that her inability to attribute feelings of romance and affection to sexual acts stems from her upbringing.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what might have happened in her childhood to affect her present day sexual confusion, nor should it, since de Pierpont's character study is one of passive observation and self-analysis. As Laura is forced into a corner, allowed to acknowledge her past and confront her abusive father from a safe vantage point, her deconstructed identity becomes the trajectory of the film.
In limiting his story to a handful of locales—Laura's apartment, her mother's living room, her father's hospital bed—de Pierpont's very simplistic, low budget work has a constant feeling of claustrophobia. In part, it helps force identification and analysis on the protagonist, whose world is, in turn, limited to various cages of past signifiers and present day self-imposed prisons.
Theoretically, this tactic works to further the narrative agenda, but because secondary characters merely exist to further Laura's self-examination and the entire external world seems non-existent beyond the scope of the framing, it's difficult to appreciate She's Not Crying beyond its surface assertion. There's no thematic mirroring or clever juxtapositions to remove the central issue of abuse or broaden it to work on multiple levels, which leaves us only with this filmed representation of textbook psychology.
She's Not Crying, She's Singing screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Wednesday, November 14th at 9:30pm. (Perspective Films)