STEPHANIE DALEY
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

Brougher takes a contemporary story that
occasionally hits the media -- that of a teenage
girl who has been concealing a pregnancy that
ends badly -- and turns it into an intriguing if
not wholly satisfying meditation on denial and
acceptance.

Brougher's title character
STEPHANIE DALEY, is
a 16-year-old high school student (Amber
Tamblyn). The film opens with a strong visual:
Stephanie trudging woozily through the snow --
trailing blood. If one didn't know better, one
might think they had stumbled into a horror
film. And perhaps for some, this film may across
as just that. Brougher feeds the audience
information in shorthand -- we cut from
Stephanie in the ambulance (where it becomes
clear she has just given birth) to seeing the girl
walking down courthouse steps. She's even been
given the tabloid name of "ski mom" which even
the court appointed forensic psychologist Lydie
Crane (Tilda Swinton, who also serves as an
executive producer) finds somewhat glibly
amusing.

The conceit in Brougher's work is the schematic
structure of parallels between the teenager and
the psychologist -- particularly linking them as
women who have both suffered the loss of a
child. In the case of Stephanie, the audience
doesn't know her culpability so our sympathies
for her are guarded. In Lydie's case, we learn
more. She suffered a stillbirth which she and her
architect husband Paul (Timothy Hutton) didn't
really grieve. Instead, they set about to have
another child -- the one she is carrying and
about which she has conflicting emotions.  

As Stephanie recounts the events of her life to
Lydie -- which are shown in flashbacks -- the
pair develop a strange bond. Stephanie tells the
other woman things she has concealed from
everyone, while Lydie begins to struggle with a
host of problems, from suspecting her husband
is having an affair to potential health issues
that may endanger her baby.

In some ways, not a great deal that is dramatic
happens in the film, but it is that accrual of
small details that fleshes out who these people
are.

The rather large cast does well, although I wish
that Brougher had delved more into some of the
characters. By the nature of the story, the
people in Stephanie's world are mostly filtered
through her point of view, so they are not as
fully formed as they might be.

Amber Tamblyn is superb as Stephanie and the
harrowing sequences of her delivering the baby
in the ladies' room stall are incredibly difficult to
watch. The actress captures the varying and
conflicting emotions so perfectly that you
almost think you are watching a documentary.

Tilda Swinton is equally amazing in her role. She
is one of the best actresses working in world
cinema today but because of the ballsy choices
she makes, she is not as well known as she
should or deserves to be.

STEPHANIE DALEY is not perfect. Brougher
raises issues that she doesn't fully address (like
religion, abstinence versus condom use, etc.)
She touches on them briefly but they are not
integrated into the story as well as she may
think. Still, thanks to the two lead
performances, the film is a worthy study of the
powerful effects of denial and acceptance.


Rating:                B-
MPAA Rating:     R for disturbing material
                         involving teen
                         pregnancy, sexual
                         content and language
Running time:     91 mins.
Amber Tamblyn as Stephanie in
STEPHANIE DALEY.
Photo by Carol Cohen/COURTESY REGENT RELEASING
© 2006 Regent Releasing