The VHS Files: Two Small Bodies

Today’s VHS File is an odd one called Two Small Bodies, essentially a grim two person drama that sees a police lieutenant (Fred Ward) relentlessly interrogate a single mother (Suzy Amis) who has reported her children as missing. They hang about her house as he goads, manipulates, probes and generally just drives a wedge into her life in an attempt to find out what happened to her kids, and he cultivates a growing suspicion that she’s the guilty party herself. This is based on a stage play, so we just have this one location, two actor story without anything else in the way of dynamics. Thankfully our two leads are both excellent, particularly Ward who is at his most… manic, Jim Carrey style acting I’ve ever seen him in a career full of mostly straight shooter authoritarian/cop roles. His cop (I began to wonder if he even was a real cop) here is a piece of work, and takes full advantage of the fact that Amis’s character is a stripper in his tirade of investigative fury towards her. The film is directed by cult filmmaker Beth B so the kinky underground vibe is there, but she struggles somehow in getting this story successfully across. You can only go so far with a constant back and forth barrage between two characters before you need narrative innovation and for your story to, you know… go somewhere! Unfortunately this doesn’t go anyplace concise beyond having the two leads engage in bizarre, borderline surreal roundtable dialogue and questionable behaviour and then just sort of leaves the ending open for us to figure out. I had a vague idea myself of who these two really were, what happened to the kids and what their situation was really about but the film (not sure how the play goes) does little to solidify any concreteness and let’s the final frames billow out in ambiguity like the perpetually windswept curtains in this woman’s nocturnal abode. That’s not to say it’s inherently a bad choice, ambiguity can be an especially *strong* choice if implemented correctly, but you just never know how each viewer will respond to that, and I was left a little lost. A fascinating exercise, if an incomplete one.

-Nate Hill

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