Movie Review: Twitch
My only previous encounter with the work of director Leah Meyerhoff was the music video she did for Triple Creme’s “Team Queen,” a riotous punk orgy of color and extreme behavior. (Review is mixed in this batch of shorts reviews.) So, I was totally taken aback by the relentlessly somber and low-key tone of her short film Twitch, about a teenage girl trying to cope with caring for her mother who is confined to a wheelchair. But considering that Meyerhoff nails the downbeat mood down perfectly, it was perfectly satisfying to witness her change up her style.
Thematically the film and the video do have certain similarities, primarily a female protagonist trying to deal with a difficult situation. In “Team Queen,” a “straight” girl seeks to acclimate herself into a new school filled with freaks where even the nerds are sex-obsessed lunatics. In Twitch, a nameless teenage girl (Emma Adele Galvin) is sexually active with her boyfriend (Peter Corrie), although he’s way more into “doing it” than the protagonist. While he relentlessly paws, fondles and drools over her body, she complains of pains in her thighs. However, these are phantom discomforts. Instead, she’s petrified that she’s caught whatever disability has robbed her mother of the use of her legs.
Or, that’s what we can surmise from this largely dialogue-free piece. Although she has people to interact with — mother, boyfriend and one uncomfortable trip to the gynecologist — no real feelings or backstories are discussed, which heightens the sense of alienation felt by the protagonist. Mother and daughter are so emotionally distant from each other, they barely even feel related. Plus, every time she comes home, the daughter is assigned the role of caregiver since mom seethes with a never-verbally-expressed rage at her predicament. Mom perhaps enjoys lording her helplessness over her sexy and active offspring. It’s kind of like a silent Tennessee Williams play, and with some nice underwater photography during two pool sequences.
And from what I understand, the film is largely autobiographical with the mother character played by Meyerhoff’s real mom, Toni, who does have multiple sclerosis. I didn’t know that before viewing the film, but when I saw the actress had the same last name of the director, I looked it up online. There’s a real powerful emotional truth underlying the entire film and it all feels extremely personal, so I wasn’t surprised that Meyerhoff drew the material from her own life. Sure, all filmmakers put their own lives into their work to some extent or another, but there’s a really palpable, painful honesty that makes this a particularly powerful film for its short running time.
I also want to step out for a bit here and talk about the conditions under which I watched this particular film. Normally, that doesn’t matter, but I did find Twitch while surfing the B-Side downloading site. I bought a copy for my iPod Nano that I proceeded to watch on my daily, screechy subway ride to work in L.A. For such a quiet film, that wasn’t the premium screening venue for the film. And yet, that raw honesty still broke through all of the outside distractions and loud rumblings. It’s a powerful film in any shape or form.
Film stills from Twitch: