20 March, 2015

ATLFF Review: "Eight" (****½)

Editor's Note: This review comes courtesy of the newest member of the Reel Georgia family—Calvin Su. A student at Georgia Tech and a member of the marketing department at the Atlanta Film Festival, Calvin is already a tremendous addition to our team. His interest and intelligence are equally obvious right away and I know you'll all enjoy everything he writes for us. -CM

Libby Munro in "Eight," screening at the 39th annual Atlanta Film Festival.

"Eight" is an Australian, eighty-two minute, one-shot narrative film. You read that right. One shot.

Directed by Peter Blackburn and starring Libby Munro in the leading role, "Eight" tells the story of Sarah Prentice. Sarah suffers from severe OCD and agoraphobia that has left her confined to her home for the past two years, trapped in a repetitive cycle of eights. Her illness has cost her her husband and daughter, both of whom no longer live with her. The film provides just a small snapshot into Sarah's long battle with her mental illness, and I have to admit, it is very unsettling. 

The film begins as Sarah gets out of bed and prepares her morning routine. You can tell on her face that she is exhausted. Exhausted from the days she has endured and exhausted for the day that is to come. The seemingly mundane daily tasks that we all go through is a battle for her. From her morning shower to making her bed, we can see Sarah struggle as she fights to overcome her illness, to escape her repetitive cycle. The film is raw in its entirety and everything is laid bare for the audience to see (literally—you can see her bare skin worn away from excessive cleaning).

I give serious props to Blackburn. To pull off such a feat requires meticulous planning, detailed choreography, and a flawless execution. Any outside noise or inadvertently shot crew member in the 82 minute take could ruin the whole thing. I especially applaud the awareness of OCD and agoraphobia Blackburn's film raises. The stigma behind mental illness is very apparent in our society and it is well-welcomed to see a film that captures mental illness with such an honest and authentic perspective.

While a lot of credit must be given to Blackburn for the execution of such a cinematically challenging film, you cannot deny Monro's absolutely breathtaking role as the mentally ill Sarah. She absolutely captivates the screen. Every struggle, every triumph is expertly conveyed by the Australian actress. (The scene with her daughter in particular absolutely broke my heart.) You can see her fight to defeat her disease, and you cheer her on every step of the way. 

4.5 out of 5 stars. 

"Eight" is a competition film debuting in North America at the Atlanta Film Festival on Saturday, March 28. The film screens at 12:15 PM at the Plaza Theatre. I highly recommend watching this remarkable cinematic feat on the big screen. It's not one to miss. 

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