Written by: Adam Vaughn | June 22nd, 2021
Shapeless (Samantha Aldana, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Tribeca’s midnighter lineup includes a highly artistic and hair-raising film that dives into the all-too-real effects of eating disorders. Filled with visually stunning imagery and a deep emotional connection to an aspiring nightclub singer looking to make a name for herself, Shapeless offers plenty of devotion to its topic. Unfortunately, Shapeless is also weighed down with sluggish pacing and a bleak aesthetic that is more distracting than engaging.
Shapeless starts its story slowly, establishing the horror credentials via a disturbing shower scene. As the film progresses, we witness Ivy (played by Kelly Murtagh, also the co-writer) as she struggles to eat full, healthy meals. The concept eventually takes a turn for the strange and avant-garde, as Ivy experiences several eye-opening moments of body parts unnaturally protruding from her, which is the film’s strongest element. Over time, Ivy’s unfortunate and tragic mental breakdown accompanies her physical downfall, as she risks everything, refusing to recognize the demons that plague her.
Where the film starts to deviate from its vision is in its insistence on an agony-inducing pace. Several scenes attempt to be smooth, stoic transitions, and instead what we find is a storyline that may as well have been told in short form. By the end of the movie, we’re right back where we started, with little resolution and the same bleak despair as in the beginning. The deeper meaning is not followed up on in any rewarding way.
Needless to say, the message of the film still resonates. The unique glimpse at the dangers of eating disorders is by far the most effective part of Aldana’s efforts, and the true passion and dedication to the project shines through when this main point is fully embraced. With a different, more kinetic pace and editing, Shapeless would have the potential to truly shock and connect to an audience keen on relating to all too real circumstances relevant to our world today.