Life is in a constant state of flux, even if most days one might feel an unbearable feeling of stasis. On those other days that a change shatters one’s perception of reality, one has to find copying mechanisms to deal with this new version of everyday life. Intolerable as it may seem in that initial crash, it eventually becomes a faint memory, or a memory that one has learned to live with.
And it is at that exact moment in life that we meet Shirley – Caitlin Walker (Laura Harrier) in Jamie Adams’ Balance, Not Symmetry as she tries to deal with the sudden death of her father. Devastated by this tragedy, Caitlin tries to get back to her routine as an art student living with her best friend Hannah (Bria Vinaite), but fails to do so every single day.
Instead, Caitlin starts denouncing everything familiar in her immediate environment. She tries turning to art, for instance, but she finds no healing response there. She mistreats Hannah every chance she gets, until the latter loses every ounce of patience and they break into a fight.
Significantly, the film’s main idea, that life is not about stability, but about finding a balancing scale, which in Caitlin’s case is Hannah and art, is noteworthy; the same thing can’t be said about that idea’s actualization. Although Caitlin’s mourning period is a natural progression of life in the wake of someone’s death, the film fails to realistically portray grief. Grief isn’t about randomly dancing with sexy clothes on, or about splashing paint on a white canvas and screaming. It can be about that if only it’s done in a proper pace. The film, however, has fallen into a chaotic structure that makes no sense.
What’s more, this chaos is brought back into a supposed normalcy when Caitlin and Hannah rediscover their friendship, but in the most improbable job offer negotiation one can think of. When Caitlin is offered a dream internship, she responds with an ultimatum: she will only accept, if Hannah goes with her.
This gesture is meant to be seen as a sign of loyalty. Seeing that this career opportunity is squeezed in the plot out of nowhere, however, Caitlin’s conditions make her seem naive and arrogant. No inexperienced artist in his/her 20s gets to make such grand demands to someone who’s more famous and successful; that’s not how hierarchy works.
Overall, the film ends up quite conceited and superficial with its only redeeming qualities being Kate Dickie’s performance as Caitlin’s mother, Mary Walker, and Biffy Clyro’s soundtrack.