When 16-year-old Stephanie Daley (Amber Tamblyn, “Joan of Arcadia”) is accused of murdering her newborn, pregnant forensic psychologist Lydie Crane (Tilda Swinton, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ) is called in to assist the prosecutor in determining the young woman's culpability.
Leaving a trail of blood in the snow, Stephanie collapses on a school ski trip. She claims that she was unaware that she was pregnant, but she had efficiently delivered and disposed of the baby before she is rushed to the emergency room.
In a series of flashbacks, Stephanie recalls the grim events leading to her fateful decision, while Lydie's own pregnancy fears bubble to the surface. Few writers are capable of cracking the flashback formula, but Brougher skillfully blends equal parts of past and present in a potent concoction. So well, that she won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at Sundance, the top honor in the screenplay category.
Lydie's pragmatic stance shatters when Stephanie enters her life. She believes that their fates are intertwined, and that there is something wrong with the baby gestating in her womb.
Many complex issues dance around in this drama: teen pregnancy, abortion and the separation of church and state. A Sex Ed schoolteacher (Marceline Hugot, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar ) conveys the silly yet reprehensible mandate foisted on high school students when she sarcastically declares, “I am told to tell you that abstinence is the only way to prevent childbirth.” The lesson, however, is lost on Stephanie as it occurs several weeks after her chance encounter with Jeff (Vincent Piazza) at a kegger.
Meanwhile, Lydie and her husband Paul (Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People ) are repairing their damaged relationship as they recover from the stillbirth of their baby daughter only a few months ago. When Lydie digs an earring out of the cat box and suspects her husband Paul of having an affair, she suffers in silence.
The film is not without flaws. However, Brougher is easily forgiven for her minor trespasses, because the film is so beautifully constructed.
Recently, Campus Circle had the chance to chat with Stephanie Daley star Amber Tamblyn.
How did you pick the role of Stephanie Daley?
I didn't really pick it as much as the director picked me. She came to me and said she really wanted me to do this film.
I thought it was a very important character role and something I hadn't screened for a while, so I decided to do it. I feel like it picked me rather than I picked it.
It's a pretty heavy, emotional role. How was the filming experience?
It was a pretty intense experience because there was a lot of personal stuff going on for me in the time I shot it as well, but also because it's such an incredible story. And one I feel that is so worthy of making because you want everyone to know, to see and understand it.
It was worth all of the strain it took to actually make the film. Some of the scenes were really tough.
How was working with Tilda Swinton?
It was incredible. She was magical, amazing and creative. She is the ideal co-partner that you would want to work with in a film because she really takes you into this world of film as art as opposed to film as just entertainment, something we do to just make things fun.
She is serious about creating the best possible thing. It was a real learning experience for me.
What has been the best moment in your acting career?
Every project I've ever done has had some exceptionally great moments. Truthfully, Stephanie Daley is one of the things I'm most proud of because the character is so raw. It's one of those characters you talk to actresses about and they only come along once in a lifetime.
I'm hoping I'll get a chance to play someone like this again, but it was really incredible for me. The entire experience of it was a favorite moment in my career for me.
Stephanie Daley releases in select theaters April 27.