Postpartum (Short Film) ★★★★ Belfast Film Festival

Postpartum (Short Film) ★★★★ Belfast Film Festival

Tania Notaro captures with overwhelming precision the fears and struggles women can face with motherhood in her second short, Postpartum. This film will strike a chord with many, a must-watch.

Life takes a dark turn when a young woman, Mary (Tania Notaro), faces the realities of motherhood.

Motherhood is one hell of a thing; as a man, I will never fully comprehend the complexities that are bundled within it all, least of all the horrific process of Postpartum depression. To have what should be the most joyous moment snatched away to be replaced with an avalanche of fear, doubt, and pain is something that should never happen. Yet, in thirteen brief minutes, Tania Notaro broaches upon this horror in an exceptionally accomplished way.

The social media elements within Postpartum are so telling of the society we live in now. Everyone online wants to broadcast how happy and great their life is, so they hide the truth. They could be going through trauma or a mental health crisis, and those who do not see them every day would never know because of how that person portrays themselves online. Mary does this with her modelled photo of her and her son, showing the world how great it is to be a mother when, for the previous five minutes, we have been witnessing something entirely different.

Worse still for Mary is that when she looks at those photos for a few moments, at least she believes in her own pushed fantasy, and it makes the film utterly fascinating. Postpartum could easily continue down this route for the entirety of its runtime if Notaro wanted to. Still, she has something far more harrowing in store for her audience.

Notaro isn’t just writer and director here in Postpartum, she also takes on an extra hyphenate as lead actor. She fully and believably encompasses the dismay a new mother has as things either go wrong and panic sets in (like her baby latching during breastfeeding). To her, even refusing herself particular food to, in her eyes, make her baby love her. It’s devastating to watch, and as she spirals, your fears for both her and her child drastically increase. It’s a strong performance from an actor who is not only finding her voice as a performer but also as a filmmaker.

As good as Notaro is here in her film, cinematographer Colm Whelan deserves a lot of plaudits for some of the shots he conjures up. As Notaro perfectly conveys the struggles Mary is going through, Whelan knows to focus tightly on her face to let us see every little emotion that she elicits during her struggle. His camera stays remarkably still, letting the characters or the moments take hold of the audience, none more devastating as the scene after Mary meets the demons that are tormenting her mind.

But when he does move that camera, be it a pull back away from our characters, you feel its importance. The camera is almost one of the surrogates for the pressure that Mary is feeling, so when it is constantly close, her ability to breathe and think is restricted. Yet when we get to pull away from her, we see the person, the mother she wants to be, come to the fore.

Postpartum is a film that wants to highlight the struggles mothers feel, that it isn’t so easy to pick up the phone and ask for help when the thoughts you are having involve harm to your child. It’s a film about the dangers of isolation when this happens and the struggles involved of the at times impossible climb out of it.


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