Reviews

JUSTINE: The Beauty of Acceptance

From the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Ioanna reviews Stephanie Turner's JUSTINE.

We all make unspoken promises. Even if “cross my heart and hope to die” was never uttered, we promise to protect a child the moment we bring it to life. We promise to hold a hand and walk side by side with every implied “I love you.”

That being said, we also break promises. How many children are out there, confined in a limited space they can neither understand nor control, and therefore are left unprotected? How many people are out there chasing a ghost, literal or metaphorical, every time they’re left with lesser hands than they had counted?    

Justine (2019)

In the beginning of Stephanie Turner’s Justine, we meet single mom Lisa Wade (Stephanie Turner), who is in emotional paralysis by the broken unspoken promise her husband once made. His untimely death has left Lisa to grow old and raise their children alone. Lisa’s numbness, however, has rendered her unable to deal with the situation and engage in any type of communication with her daughters, Maya (Bridget Kallal) and Drew, (Ravi Cabot-Conyers).

In order to offer financially stability, Lisa looks for a job and eventually becomes Justine Green’s (Daisy Prescott) caretaker. Significantly, being Justine’s nanny proves to be a bit challenging for Lisa in the beginning. The challenge stems not only from Lisa’s emotional numbness that prevents her from caring for another person, but also from the fact that Justine is an 8-year-old girl with Spina Bifida; a medical condition that has left Justine almost completely paralyzed from the waist down.

With that in mind, we can say that Justine and Lisa are two puzzle pieces that perfectly fit one another: Justine can’t walk, but has a beautiful optimism and is refreshingly carefree, while Lisa has perfect physical mobility, but is emotionally bankrupt.

Justine (2019)

It is through their interactions that both Justine and Lisa become whole; together, they transcend the limitations and discriminations that were ascribed to them by society. Even if their Otherness is based on different unfounded premises, Justine is treated as an unnatural being both by nameless kids and ultimately by her parents, Alison (Darby Stanchfield) and Michael Green (Josh Stamberg), due to her condition, and Lisa is the mother of biracial children, they help each overcome every obstacle in their way.

It should be noted here that this was Stephanie Turner’s objective to begin with. As she has stated, “Lisa and Justine form a bond with one another that is rooted in the fact that society has unfairly judged them.” And it’s that very bond that brings to the fore the film’s core; the notion that “no one, no matter their circumstances, should have limitations put upon them”.

It is safe to say, overall, that Turner succeeded in breathing life into that idea since the film’s argument against discrimination is clearly articulated. What’s more surprising is that the film manages to communicate all this with an invigorating and positive atmosphere. This tension between content and form is what makes the argument so appealing and strong. The audience is not brutally brought into the realization that prejudices are unjust; it shows you the beauty of acceptance.

Stephanie Turner’s Justine, an all female production film, will premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival on 23 June @ 18:15!   

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