The 2018 Pasadena International Film Festival Review Of “Bare”: A Gripping, Heart Wrenching Story Of Illness And The Perception Of Beauty

By William Engel

Bare tells the harrowing yet uplifting story based on the short story written by Rebecca Hall (a friend of the filmmaker Kerith Lemon), who’s own devastating breast cancer diagnosis at age drastically 25 changed the course of her life. The story is of a woman (Aurora Perrineau) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor prescribes chemotherapy, which unfortunately means that she is likely going to lose her hair as a result of the treatment. With a heavy heart, she decides to go out on her own terms by cutting her hair off and donating it to charity. You can follow Rebecca Hall journey on her blog: Cancer, you can suck it.

Bare is unique in that it focuses not on the main character’s mortality, but on how the quality of her life is expected to change – for the worse, of course. The primary source of her angst is the fact that, at the young age of 25, she’s not going to be seen as desirable anymore.

“I’m young, I’m 25,” she says. “What guy is gonna want a bald, breast-less sick girl?”

But as shallow as that sounds on paper, Perrineau really sells it; her gripping, heart-wrenching performance is the highlight of the short. And the moment when she looks in the mirror and boldly accepts her fate is nothing short of beautiful.

By comparison, A Social Life gets across its message in a more understated, subtle manner. In That, we follow the day-to-day life of a career woman named Meredith (Rosalind Ross), who spends all day cultivating her social media profiles, most notably her Instagram. She uses misleading, airbrushed photos in order to create the image of an outgoing, active, extroverted busybody – even though she herself never leaves her house.

The message of the film is clear. By devoting so much time and attention to her online persona, Meredith is isolating herself from the real world, living a life that’s (ironically) the polar opposite of the image she’s trying to project. But we only see her unhappiness through subtle signs – her facial expressions, and the lack of passion she shows when going through her routine. The lead’s performance may not be as powerful as that of Bare, but it admirably conveys the numbness that a life consumed by social media can induce.

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