BFI FLARE REVIEW: ‘My Fiona’ (2020) Is A Heartfelt Look at Love And Loss.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“My Fiona offers moments where no words need to be spoken, the shot speaks for itself”

Sat opposite each other at a shared desk, Jane (Jeanette Maus) and Fiona (Sara Amini) hum along to the same tune. The camera fully circles them before Fiona looks down at her phone and her face drops. Minutes later, a body jumps from the top of the building.

Kelly Walker’s directorial debut plots Jane’s mourning for Fiona as she tries to find peace and space beside Fiona’s wife, Gemma (Corbin Reid), and Fiona’s seven-year-old son, Bailey (Elohim Nycalove). Jane offers to care for Bailey while Gemma continues work, the trio growing closer and melding into a comfortable routine. My Fiona portrays how overpowering grief can be, like a blank smothering Jane and pinning her to her bed. Alone in her bedroom, she staples her curtains shut to block out sunlight and the rest of the world. Grief slams into her with such a force she is wiped out.

jane smoking while leaning against the house, listening to a couple gossip about her friend
Image courtesy of BFI

Sunlight is shot with a gratefulness for its warmth, sun-tinged flashbacks show select moments between Jane and Fiona. Developing their start-up company, the pair share a promise: “If we fail, we fail together.” After Fiona’s funeral, Jane returns to their office and tries to find clues, hints, a note – any reasoning as to why Fiona committed suicide. Jane notices all the small things: Fiona’s missing painting, a ring in a box and how Fiona’s mum was not fully accepting of her daughter’s lesbian relationship.

“She’s not a real babysitter,” Bailey tells his therapist. Jane seems unfazed, but later she researches babysitting tutorials on YouTube. Her sincere care for the child is clear, she is always willing to fight his corner. With the growing closeness between Gemma, Bailey and Jane comes both shared love for one another and a confrontational frustration. In searching for memories and reminders of Fiona, Jane unintentionally moulds herself into the space Fiona left. 

Walker’s camera finds its subjects with a welcoming closeness. Negotiating tight spaces to remain beside these characters, drawing attention into these characters’ private and intimate moments. One specific shot, only used a few times throughout the film, is a looping panoramic shot that circles the subject entirely. Circling a table at the bar and Jane’s desk at work, it is the camera movement that allows every character to be seen as they speak. Choreographed precisely, the camera seamlessly stalks situations and reveals them in their entirety.

Moments between the two women, Jane and Gemma, are infused by a feminine longing that is so tender. The growing closeness between Gemma and Jane is framed sensitively, their shared love for Fiona entraps them in each-other’s orbit. Connected on a level that makes folding laundry an act infused with sexual desire, Jane questions herself at every turn. Her awakening is sudden in her consciousness but is something that has been present for years unbeknownst to her.

jane and gemma very close, in an almost-kiss
Image courtesy of BFI

“Sexuality isn’t a symptom. It’s a human experience.”

Fiona’s death brings a realisation to Jane’s life. The camera stays close with Jane’s intensity, close-up framing shows her transition between softness with absolute care to snapping with such a ferocious bite. This is all down to the wonderful Jeanette Maus. She is endearingly candid and plays with being at odds with grief in such a realistic way. Masterfully controlling the smallest of gestures, Maus performs effortlessly; she can go from audacious to vulnerable in the span of one scene. By Maus’ side, Elohim Nycalove is brilliant. With his young age comes an impressive rage-fuelled tantrum scream and a sensitivity that is smartly woven into this script. Also, in the emotionally raw moments of connection between Gemma and Jane, it is their shared grief that brings them together. These actresses are wonderful in their one-on-one dynamic; a genuineness to their actions. One moment shows the women lying together in bed, arms intertwined with matching ‘Fiona’ tattoos on their forearms. My Fiona offers moments where no words need to be spoken, the shot speaks for itself.

The lesbian relationship that My Fiona rests upon is dealt compassionately with the circumstances of Fiona’s death. Between tangled limbs and rushed kisses, both women are given time to voice themselves. Missing Fiona but trying to continue, the film deals with the psychology of loss; coming to the conclusion there is no solution to grief. Sensitively presenting that the process of healing is incalculable and painfully personal, to suggest it is anything else that completely impenetrable is to ignore how loss weaves itself into every facet of a mourner’s life. Grief, love, and loss with all its messiness and contradictions are shown to be heartbreakingly raw, hard to articulate and all-consuming. In the search for reasons, Jane and Gemma may not find what they are looking for but at least they have each other.

Director: Kelly Walker

Producers: Matthew Minshall (The Art Factory)

Cast: Jeanette Maus, Corbin Reid, Elohim Nycalove