Written by: Robin C. Farrell | April 27th, 2021
My Fiona (Kelly Walker, 2021) 3½ out of 4 stars.
Content Warning: Suicide, Death, Grief
Grief is an intensely complex topic that can be both universal and specific. It’s a subject that those struggling with recent loss crave and avoid, borne from an urge to find meaning and stifle the overwhelming pain. Kelly Walker’s feature-film debut, My Fiona, depicts all of this and more, weaving an incredibly fluid and moving tale.
After her best friend Fiona’s suicide, Jane (Jeanette Maus, Charm City Kings) struggles to cope, barely finding the strength to carry on, until she begins helping Fiona’s widow, Gemma (Corbin Reid, Samir) and babysitting her seven-year old son, Bailey (Elohim Nycalove). As the two women grieve together and apart, their relationship grows and evolves, fluctuating from friendly to loving to contentious. In the end, Jane must confront the truth and do what is best for everyone, including herself, despite how much it might hurt.
The film wastes no time. The bone-deep friendship between Jane and Fiona (Sara Amini, Find Me) is established immediately, helped in no small part by the chemistry between the two actresses. With the aforementioned suicide occurring in the first two minutes and Maus’s chilling and startlingly authentic reaction, it all hits the ground running. From there, the film smoothly dodges clichés – from an overly-weepy funeral to a kindly coworker’s suggestion, “maybe you should take some time off” – and finds new ways to convey landmarks of the grief experience.
Walker deploys simple, but effective, techniques, allowing the performances to shine. The color palette subtly shifts from warm to cool between happiness and distress, and though the use of close-ups vs. wide shots is a tad predictable, it really works. The film’s pacing retains a surprisingly breezy quality despite the heavy subject matter, and every time the plot starts to feel a bit adrift, a new narrative element propels everything forward.
One aspect the film doesn’t quite succeed with is Alec (Ryan W. Garcia, Natural Disasters), Bailey’s therapist and Jane’s ex. Alec offers to connect Jane with another therapist multiple times but Jane deflects each one, even though she repeatedly seeks out his advice as a therapist. Professionally, Alec should have maintained his boundaries for both their sakes. Overall, though, My Fiona nails the journey of loss, from the broad strokes to tiny, intimate moments of torment, all conveyed with a light enough touch to draw you in, but raw and real enough to resonate deeply.
[The 2021 OUTshine LGBTQ Film Festival Review runs April 23-May 2.]