Review: Mouthpiece

Having to deal with a family member’s loss is never easy, especially when it’s someone you were close to. We all cope in our own way. Whether it’s confiding in a therapist, talking about it to friends and family or figuring it out on your own. Losing someone becomes worse when the loss is sudden, and for Cassandra, losing her mother unexpectedly must have been an extremely hard blow. That indeed becomes clear when we look at her life right after she heard the tragic news. In Mouthpiece, based on the play by Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, director Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park, When Night Is Falling) shows you the impact of death, losing a loved one and grief in multiple dreamy, beautiful and moving ways.

Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, both as Cassandra, in Mouthpiece
Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, both as Cassandra, in Mouthpiece // Credit: First generation Films

Just like having an inner dialogue with yourself

Cassandra lives in Toronto, and after a night out, she wakes up hungover to the news that her mother died suddenly. The saddest part is that her mum left her many messages the night before, but she didn’t hear them. Now, Cassandra has to plan everything herself. From the funeral to the food and from the casket to the attendance list. But who’s ready for those heart-breaking and emotional tasks? No one, matter when in your life you have to deal with these. To illustrate the different voices and ways we can deal with these unforeseen dramatic events, Cassandra is portrayed by Nostbakken and Sadaya (The New Canada, Diamond Tongues). Their Cassandra’s both have unique and different personalities.

As a viewer, you witness Cassandra’s inner dialogue, which results in terrific, intriguing and emotional scenes. When Sadaya acts in one way, Nostbakken does it in another, and when Nostbakken her Cassandra sprouts her opinion, Sadaya’s character contradicts it. However, there’s one aspect they both struggle with: writing the eulogy. As a writer, technically, it should be easy. However, expressing emotions and talking about her mother who just passed away hinder that. How will she cope with it? Well, that’s for you to find out by watching this intriguing and touching Mouthpiece.

From a terrific and unique stage play to a gorgeous and gripping film

As mentioned, Mouthpiece first saw the light of day as a theatre play written and performed by Sadaya and Nostbakken themselves and Rozema was introduced to this intriguing story by her daughter. Her love for Cassandra’s story oozes out of every pore of this family. She finds the right balance between the original theatrical story and the elements of a filming adaptation. She makes it feel like you’re watching a play one moment and a great movie the next one.

Of course, a story like this stands or falls with the performances, and Mouthpiece couldn’t have asked for better leads. Nostbakken and Sadava know this story, the characters and their nuances from the inside out, and while the leap from stage to film probably was a big one, they pulled it off incredibly well. They have excellent chemistry, thanks to which they bring amusing, witty and funny scenes and more restrained, emotional and very personal moments. Mouthpiece is full of strong and amazing women, and cinematographer Catherine Lutes (Disappearance at Clifton Hill, Firecrackers) is no exception. She creates that dreamy, surreal and playful vibe beautifully and it heightens the peculiar but wonderful storyline.

Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, both as Cassandra, in Mouthpiece // Credit: First Generation Films

The intimacy you need from a movie like this

Mouthpiece might not be everyone’s cup of tea, mainly because it takes a while to get used to the ‘two voices, one woman’ element of the film, but that being said, Mouthpiece is surely worth your time. The very human aspects of the storyline, the intimate and marvellous performances, and the dreamy atmosphere make Mouthpiece a movie you can definitely resonate with.

Mouthpiece is now available in the U.K. via digital platforms.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Also Read: How Film Changed Me: On Kathryn Hahn

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