A still from the short film Parlour Palm (directed by Rebeccah Love)
Parlour Palm is one of the 11 short films screening at the 2021 Future of Film Showcase (FOFS), a Canadian not-for-profit media arts organization presenting short films from Canadian filmmakers aged 40 and younger.
At the core of Parlour Palm is one woman’s descent into a climate crisis inspired, anxiety-fueled manic episode. Mel (Sarah Swire) lives with Bipolar Disorder. Her partner Brayden (Tyson Coady) is an overworked lawyer attempting to care for her. The two of them spend a lot of time in their parlour. From playful dinners and arguments to random casual activities, this one space in the house captures them day and night. Upon closer look, with more focus growing on Mel’s perspective as she reads the horrors of the world on a computer screen, she is nearing the brink of a breakdown. Directed by Rebeccah Love, this evocative film is a truly unforgettable portrait of living with Bipolar Disorder. Love explores a protagonist in existential crisis. From wildfires in California to billion-dollar corruption and greed, the weight of the world is resting heavily on Mel as she tries to cope with darting thoughts. With a 23-minute runtime, the film shines a light on grand discussions in a myriad of compelling and poignant ways.
Mel’s frame of mind drives much of the story, both intimately and from an outside perspective. The person Brayden says goodbye to before heading to work in the morning is in an entirely different mindset when he returns home. Love does an incredible job framing the narrative around how gradually drastic the changes in Mel’s personality become. The film patiently explores how the protagonist’s mind transitions into crisis mode, often sparked by a discussion on very real concerns about the state of the world. An interesting recurring theme is the love and care she gives to a new plant in her home. The idea of motherhood and taking care of a baby is a lot to bear; she just wants to take care of the plant. Mel is a character not often seen in mainstream films, or portrayed in a way that derives from a truthful foundation.
Parlour Palm brings a sense of openness and sensitivity not only to those who live with Bipolar Disorder, but also the loved ones who care for them. The challenges Brayden faces from seeing Mel experience terrifying symptoms, and his heightened emotions about not having the time nor energy to “deal with her,” bring a shattering layer to the story. Sarah Swire and Tyson Coady gives startlingly great performances, making Parlour Palm feel all the more resounding in the messages conveyed. With stunning camerawork and cinematography, Love makes striking use of a limited set. The performances shine in a character-driven piece, and bring to life a thoughtful portrayal of a disorder that needs more understanding.
The 8th annual Future of Film Showcase will be available to stream across Canada for free on CBC Gem from July 9 to 22, 2021. Visit www.FOFS.ca for the full short film lineup, which includes plenty more women-led stories to discover.
Editor's note: Parlour Palm is one of the 11 short films screening at the 2021 Future of Film Showcase (FOFS).